The U-17 Women’s World Cup is marked for October 2022 across five venues in India, but FIFA's Director of Tournaments, Jaime Yarza, indicated they are ‘open to’ reducing the number of venues if the COVID-19 situation demands.
When asked if they are looking at hosting the tournament just across three venues - on the lines of the recently-concluded AFC Women’s Asian Cup, Yarza said: “Anything is open right now. There is no final decision yet. It is a little bit together with the AIFF that FIFA will make a proposal after this inspection to see that we can guarantee success in the tournament and strengthen the development of women’s football without jeopardising the health of all the participants.”
India was originally handed the hosting rights for the 2020 edition. But the pandemic forced its postponement to 2021 followed by a cancellation. In November 2020, FIFA announced India as the host for the 2022edition as a compensatory gesture.
But now, with barely eight months remaining for the tournament, the FIFA teams are currently in India to inspect the venues before making a decision on the final fixtures.
According to the original schedule, the matches were to be played in Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai. But the FIFA team is also ‘evaluating’ the situation to avoid frequent travelling. “This is one of the things we are looking at carefully - to minimise travel as much as possible between the venues. Whenever travel is required, we need to look at chartered flights and things like that…”
“We need to see what are the circumstances in every place and evaluate various factors including the travel between the two venues. We can’t wait very long, we have to make a decision as early as possible. It is a little bit open, we have a big team and great support from LOC and its chairman to make sure the decision is good for India and the development of women’s football…,” Yarza added.
The FIFA team is currently in Navi Mumbai and will soon head to Bhubaneswar and other centres - including Goa, which was not among the venues revealed earlier. “We had a team visiting some of the cities a few weeks ago, to see some of the facilities, some of the areas, we are doing another inspection right now because the time has changed. We need to take a look into the arrangements and see how the tournament is going to be structured, to make sure that it remains an Indian success. It is positive for the success of women’s football and we can guarantee the safety of everyone.”
He did not clarify whether spectators will be allowed for the tournament. They will “follow the instructions of the government or the senior authorities” before reaching a conclusion.