New Delhi: Three years after hosting the FIFA U-17 Men's World Cup in 2017, India will welcome the best players in the world in the age bracket again. This time, it would be the women's under-17 teams that would rub shoulders come November 2020.
The 7th edition of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup will be the first FIFA women's tournament to be held in India. Roma Khanna, tournament director of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), feels that the biennial tournament will "launch women's football" in the country.
With the tournament being held after such a short duration to the men's one, comparisons to 2017 will be inevitable. It will be the first time that an Indian tournament director will be heading an entirely Indian LOC. Roma Khanna was the head of venue operations at the 2017 cup.
In November last year, the official emblem was unveiled at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai. Since then, a FIFA delegation headed by Oliver Vogt inspected stadiums at Kolkata, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai. But a venue has not been finalised yet, with Roma Khanna remaining tight-lipped.
In a chat with News18, she said it will be confirmed when the match schedule is announced and also opened up on the legacy of the tournament.
Here are edited excerpts from the conversation:
Q: Which city is most likely to host India's matches?
A: The host cities will only be confirmed when the match schedule is out. It will be released in the first quarter of 2020 and will include where India will play.
Q: When does the promotion of the World Cup start full throttle?
A: The official countdown to World Cup started with the spectacular emblem launch at the Gateway of India which was attended by some well-known names. In the next few months we will see a lot more activities where we will also be involving students, aimed at increasing participation. I have no doubt that people will come out in numbers to support the first ever FIFA Women's tournament in the country.
Q: They were a few questions raised in the running of Mission XI million during the FIFA U-17 Men's WC. Is there any similar legacy programme in the pipeline this time and what are the learnings from the U-17 Men's WC?
A: FIFA U-17 WWC has the potential to launch women's football in a big way. We will have our legacy programmes addressed towards that and celebrating women's football. Our programme will be about making football more accessible, especially for young girls and increase their participation in the game.
Q: What kind of audience are you targeting for the stadiums?
A: We obviously want the young girls to be inspired and use this opportunity to see some future stars of the game in action, but this World Cup is for everyone and with the women's game on the rise, it's a great opportunity for all football lovers irrespective of their age or gender to see some exciting action on the field.
Q: What are the ways you're looking to help increase the World Cup's influence on the Indian women's football scene?
A: The World Cup will serve as an inspiration for young girls to take up the game. The World Cup will also bring many first time viewers to the women's game - both in the stadium and on television. Through our legacy programme, our aim is also to provide safe playing spaces for girls to play the game. When the participation increases, it will automatically increase the talent base in the country.