Ceppi praises ‘world-class’ Salt Lake stadium

The U-17 World Cup tournament director thanked the West Bengal government for refurbishing the stadium in two and a half years.

The Salt Lake stadium will host the FIFA U-17 World Cup final.   -  AFP

The Salt Lake stadium is at par with any world-class venue in the world, according to Javier Ceppi, the U-17 World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC) tournament director.

Ceppi gave Kolkata’s marquee stadium a 10 out of 10 rating and thanked the government of West Bengal for refurbishing it in two and a half years as it was handed over to the LOC. “If you ask me it looks like a museum, be the entrance or the inside. Or like the teams said it looks the lobby of a five-star hotel,” Ceppi said, thanking the chief minister of the State, Mamata Banerjee.

“You see and the stadium looks nothing like it used to before. That’s because the stadium needed to be fit to host a World Cup final, the most important football match to be hosted in India’s history. They (West Bengal government) took the challenge. This stadium now can be compared to other stadiums in the world that have hosted a FIFA World Cup final.”

Reduction in capacity

The modification work was taken up on February 1, 2015, costing the government more than Rs. 100 crore. Banerjee will formally inaugurate the stadium from Uttar Kanya, the branch secretariat of Government of West Bengal in Siliguri, North Bengal, on September 12.

Once a 120,000 capacity stadium, the Yuva Bharati Krirangan (YBK) can now officially accommodate 66,687 people for the World Cup after FIFA enforced a guideline following a study with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority of the U.K. “It’s not a single person more. That’s the capacity of the stadium for a safe evacuation for every part and every spectator of the stadium within eight minutes,” Ceppi said.

‘Two or three things’ left

However, the stadium can unofficially accommodate about 80,000. The stadium is 98 percent complete and Ceppi said it’s his unit’s responsibility to take it to the next level. “Now, we need the transition from a museum to a football stadium to host the World Cup. It’s not major work but just two or three things,” Ceppi said.

Ceppi, however, refused to compare the YBK with the other five venues which will host matches during the World Cup. “All six of them are like our kids, it’s impossible to decide the best. I’m not being politically correct, but if you go to every single stadium in country the amount of work has gone is fantastic. With certain touch-ups it would be a fantastic facility operationally as well. It’s not only about looks but substance as well. It does look like a 10 out of 10. Bengalis must feel proud about the stadium now,” Ceppi said after principal secretary (sports) Saeed Ahmed Bawa signed the official document to hand over the stadium.

“The handover means we take certain responsibility and certain decision-making with regards to last phase of rectification and work so it becomes fully operational for tournament,” Ceppi said.

‘Fully funded’

Work on outer areas to include a subway, the media and a VIP tribune, among other facilities, are in progress. West Bengal’s sports minister Aroop Biswas said the government had borne the entire cost of the stadium revamp. “101 per cent of the cost is borne by the state government. FIFA never allots money, whatever work you’re seeing is funded by the government of West Bengal,” Biswas said.

“It was an old structure. From time to time, we had to take the expert advice of IIT Kharagur and sometimes BESU (Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur), so till it’s fully over we cannot exactly say the amount but it’s estimated to be more than Rs. 100 crore.”

Principal secretary, Public Works Department, Indeevar Pandey was the man-in-charge of the stadium revamp and he conceded having more than 105 meetings to bring up this transformation. “We have had 105 meetings here with intricate details with chief minister directly overseeing the progress. That we are chosen as the hosts for the final makes it the best. Nothing further needs to be said,” Pandey said.