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Posted at: Jul 4, 2017, 1:59 AM; last updated: Jul 4, 2017, 1:59 AM (IST)

U-17 WC: FIFA not keen, but Rs 10 cr for opening ceremony

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, july 3

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside over the opening ceremony of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Delhi as the government has planned to spend Rs 10 crore on the 90-minute mega show at the Dhyanchand National Stadium on October 5.

The government would be spending Rs 10 crore from its own coffers, since FIFA doesn’t endorse the concept of having an opening ceremony.

FIFA has categorically told the government that it wouldn’t allow any extra expenditure from the Rs 80 crore that it had sanctioned for the organisation of the World Cup. The opening gala doesn’t figure in FIFA’s scheme of things and any spending in this direction would have to be undertaken by the organisers – in this case the government.

The utilisation of the taxpayers’ money for the ceremony would see the PM delivering a 15-minute speech on India’s footballing growth and the country’s growing stature in the sporting world. The PM’s opening remarks would be followed by a culture show.

Opening at Dhyanchand Stadium

The government’s decision to host the ceremony at the Dhyanchand stadium — a venue for hockey matches —was a result of FIFA’s refusal to open the gates of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium for the cultural evening. The government had originally planned the event at the JLN Stadium on October 5. But FIFA cited damage to the playing field and its adjacent areas as the reason for the refusal.

FIFA also turned down the government’s request to allow players from the participating nations for a ‘March Past’ ceremony. FIFA’s view was that the teams would be playing matches the next day.

Political move

Some independent observers see it as a move to derive political mileage. Since the government is spending a lot on promoting the World Cup and dubbing the event as one which would act as a game-changer for Indian football, the ruling establishment doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunity to pat its own back.

The government has already succeeded in pursuing FIFA to shift India’s matches from Navi Mumbai to Delhi so that the political and bureaucratic class could attend the matches. This despite the fact that poor ticket sales in Delhi is a matter of serious concern for the local organising committee.

Spend on players

Observers say that instead of spending Rs 10 crore on the opening ceremony, the government should have spent the money on building a strong team, which could have justified the nation hosting the tournament. The Indian team is playing in the World Cup only because it is the host nation.

The Indian team’s results on their exposure trips haven’t been encouraging. The team’s victory against an Italian side was hailed as “historic” and it was projected as if the Indian team had beaten the Italian junior national side. However, the reality was the victory had come against the third and fourth division clubs.

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