It is the first FIFA World Cup that India is hosting
FIFA U-17 World Cup being held in October 2017 across six Indian cities is the first FIFA tournament which India is hosting and participating in. Joy Bhattacharjya, project director at LOC, FIFA U-17 World Cup highlights the significance of the event in terms of sports tourism
Why is hosting of FIFA U-17 such an important event in India’s sporting history?
I see most of the media houses emphasising on the fact that it’s the first FIFA World Cup that India is hosting. However, that’s not the sole reason why the tournament is immensely important for us. Everyone must note that it is not only the first ever FIFA tournament to be hosted in India, it is also the first ever FIFA tournament in which an Indian team will participate. That’s what makes everything about it truly historic for us.
What is the significance of the event in terms of sports tourism?
Any tournament of such a large scale brings with it its own set of tourists who love to explore the host country, apart from rooting for their team religiously from the stands. And the fact fans from some of the teams participating in this tournament (like Germany, England, Brazil, Japan and Mexico) traditionally travel with the team, augurs well for Indian tourism. The diverse lands of India have anyway long been a subject of fascination for tourists from every part of the world. So, considering all that, this event is significant in terms of sports tourism.
Are you expecting die-hard Indian FIFA fans to do the whole circuit of the cities where the matches are being held?
Why not? The game has seen a surge in popularity over the last few years and has developed its own devoted fan base. We think there will be many who will try and savor the experience in as many stadiums as the schedule will permit. Each one of our venues has its own unique appeal. The diversity of the venues, from Delhi in North to Kochi in South and Goa in West to Kolkata in South makes this an amazing opportunity for a traveller to traverse across the length and breadth of the country while enjoying the beautiful game too.
Which cities will see the largest congregation of fans?
Obviously, the plan and the hope is to get high footfalls at every venue. But I can foresee two venues getting a lot of traffic. Kolkata being the venue of the finals will surely attract a lot of Indian as well as international fans. Also, Kochi, which hosts Brazil and Spain and also is a tourist hub may be very appealing to Indian and international fans. But again, no one can rule out the charm of cities like Delhi, Goa and Mumbai either.
What will be the contribution of the event in developing the sports/ sporting talent in India?
This is a huge legacy not just for Indian football but sport in India in general. I will reiterate that this will be the first-time football lovers across the country will be seeing an Indian team participate in a Football World Cup and that’s been on the country’s collective wish list for a long time. So, you can just imagine the impact that such an event will leave behind on the minds of a billion people and millions of kids. We are taking this forward with the Mission XI Million project which will reach 11 million children across 15,000 schools around the country and excite them about playing football. This could be an inflexion point in Indian sport.