New Delhi: Three days ahead of India's formal bid for the Under-17 Football World Cup in 2017, the AIFF received a shot in the arm as the central government gave its approval for hosting the prestigious event.
The news was conveyed on Monday, to the AIFF in a letter, dated September 19, by Sports Minister Ajay Maken. "It gives me immense pleasure to inform you that the Government supports the possibility that FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 may be staged in India," Maken said in the letter.
"Also, the Government supports the presence of FIFA and of any FIFA member associations in India in connection with the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. The Government will also support all efforts that envisage the hosting and staging of FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 and those that contribute to the development of football in India," he added.
While expressing its interest for India to host the Under-17 tournament in order to raise the profile of the game in a huge market, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke had warned that the country will not get the prestigious event if it fails to meet the strict criteria.
But the AIFF can afford to breathe easy after the government's positive response. "A detailed communication on the guarantees sought by AIFF is being conveyed to the General Secretary of the AIFF, separately, by my department," Maken said.
The AIFF had, in a letter dated February 1, 2012, sought declaration and guarantees from the government for hosting the tournament. Maken said the proposal of the AIFF was examined in the sports ministry in consultations with various other ministries/departments.
A final decision on who gets to host the tournament will be taken in the FIFA executive meeting on December 14 in Tokyo during the World Club Championship. Valcke, during his visit to the capital in the first week of this month, had said that India will have to meet the strict requirements for hosting the Under-17 World Cup and if the country fails to provide them, the event will go to another nation.
"Obviously, the infrastructure will have to be top class, the six venues needed for the tournament will have to be the best. We need security guarantee from the government and then guarantee for accommodation, transport and airport facilities," Valcke had said.
However, he had also expressed FIFA's willingness to see India hosting the event, which, if it happens, will give the sport a huge boost in the country. "I sincerely hope that India qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The developmental office will have to play a big role in that. Their bid to host the U-17 World Cup is also being taken seriously and I hope they succeed there as well. We will help as much as possible," Valcke had said.