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U-17 World Cup: FIFA Elated With Facilities at New-look Salt Lake Stadium

In just over 7 weeks, the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) will host, what is a first ever football World Cup final to be played on Indian soil. The 17th edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will come to an end on October 28th at the newly renovated and swanky Salt Lake Stadium.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:September 15, 2017, 2:25 PM IST
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U-17 World Cup: FIFA Elated With Facilities at New-look Salt Lake Stadium
A view of the renovated Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata (Courtesy: FIFA U17 World Cup LOC)
New Delhi: In just over 7 weeks, the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) will host, what is a first ever football World Cup final to be played on Indian soil. The 17th edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will come to an end on October 28th at the newly renovated and swanky Salt Lake Stadium.

The West Bengal Government has spent over Rs 100 crore to ensure that the 33-year old Salt Lake Stadium is as state of the art as any in the world, ahead of India’s first FIFA tournament, which kicks of October 6th. An elated Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to social media to express her joy, describing it as ‘a new jewel in the crown of great sporting stadiums in the world.’

“The renovations at the Salt Lake Stadium have been very good and now it is a stadium that is fit to be host of a FIFA World Cup final. There are small ends that are being tied up in the outer areas,” said Javier Ceppi, the Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee.

“Working with the WB government has been good all through the renovation process, and the results are all there to see.”

The majestic Salt Lake Stadium, also known as the VYBK is Asia’s second biggest football stadium and was built to ensure more people could attend the famed derby clashes between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

In 1997, more than 1,20,000 spectators packed themselves into the stands and in more recent years greats such as Pele, Lionel Messi and Oliver Kahn have strengthened that love affair by making appearances at the venue. Ceppi – an integral part of organising the previous two editions of the same tournament; said that the LOC was aware this was, ‘a very large facility that had a lot of potential, but that it would need a sizable amount of work to be made fit for a World Cup.’

Post this renovation; India’s biggest football stadium will seat 66,678 at full capacity, almost half of the record attendance registered in 1997. “The single most important aspect of a facility is to ensure safety to all the people that are inside. The capacity hasn’t been cut, this is the real capacity because of the infrastructure and design,” Ceppi told News18. “Having more people would not be safe,” he added.

Of course, no one would like to see a repeat of anything close to the Hillsborough Disaster from 1989 or the incident from the East Bengal-Mohun Bagan derby at the Eden Gardens on August 16th , 1980 – fanatic fanfare led to a horrible stampede that saw 16 spectators lose their lives.

The process of making the stadium a ‘jewel’ was never going to be easy, it was bound to be a challenge, “Many parts which are not visible needed the most amount of attention. The electrics, the drainage, the safety and the security systems had to be redone,” remarked Ceppi, who took over the reins for this project in 2014.

The Tournament Director added, “There was fair bit of work overall, since there hadn’t been any major renovation work since the stadium was opened.” The Salt Lake stadium began business in January of 1984 with the Jawarharlal Nehru International Gold Cup. The Salt Lake Stadium, now under the care of the Local Organising Committee led by Javier Ceppi and Joy Bhattacharya, will host 6 group stage matches, another two games in round of 16 and quarter finals respectively, before the third-fourth place playoff and the final.

India’s most historic and iconic football stadium will play host to Chile, England, Iraq and 2011 champions Mexico - the only nation to have won the tournament as a host nation - as well as debutants New Caledonia and Japan in the first round, and according to Ceppi is ‘a stadium fit for a World Cup.’

The Local Organising Committee will hand over the stadium back to the Department of Sports of Government of West Bengal on October 29th .
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