The six venues across the country are close to being called ready to host the first football World Cup in India, feels the tournament director of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Javier Ceppi. After having guided Chile successfully through the same event in 2015, Ceppi says India presents its own sets of challenges which are unique to its culture and demography. But the preparations for the World Cup has been “90 per cent” up to the mark and the most extraordinary of them has been the way Salt Lake Stadium here has been transformed into a world-class venue for football.

“We know everything is on track. There will be certain things for example, the painting of the exterior side of the stadium and the completion of the installation of bucket seats, will be left but that will be done in due course. One should realise that getting around 87,000 bucket seats in place takes some time,” he added.

Saying that the fixtures of the 52-match tournament, scheduled to be held in October this year, would be announced after the final set of inspections by a FIFA team in March, Ceppi felt the stage is almost set for the most extraordinary football show in the country. “Preparing the Salt Lake Stadium, which could accommodate 120 thousand people at one time, was a humongous task. The progress has been very satisfactory and I am sure by the time the FIFA teams visits here at the end of March, 90 to 95 per cent work on the core infrastructure will be completed,” Ceppi said.


Work in progress inside the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.


The tournament director said that, keeping in mind the interest of the football aficionados of the country, the ticket prices will be kept below Rs. 100 for a match. “We will be launching tickets by mid-May. I cannot reveal the pricing at the moment but it would be economical and definitely less than going to a movie. The idea is you can watch a World Cup match in less than Rs. 100,” Ceppi said.

About the preparations in other venues, Cepi sounded satisfied. “The DY Patil stadium sets a different benchmark being a private stadium. Guwahati (Indira Gandhi Stadium) has also done well to get things in place and the training venues in Delhi are quite good. Goa had got everything ready before AFC U-16 tournament last year. The fact is that every single venue is shaping up quite impressively,” Ceppi said.


The locker room of the Salt Lake Stadium getting refurbished ahead of the FIFA Under-17 Football World Cup.


'Delhi will host matches'

Addressing the questions being raised about Delhi’s chances, Ceppi said the Capital will host matches but there is a concern about the air quality in the city post Diwali. “We know that there is air quality concern post-Diwali in Delhi. It has nothing to do with Delhi hosting matches. Let me be very clear and straightforward, Delhi will host matches. What is being analysed now are the measures that could be taken to lesser the impact on the tournament post Diwali in Delhi,” Ceppi said.

Ceppi sounded optimistic about the attendance for the matches saying that there was enough interest around the tournament. “This is the first World Cup in India and for sure no one will be treating it as an U-17 event. The interest from the States, sponsors, organisers and from every community, be it football or arts or tourism, is very different and the interest is quite a lot," the tournament director said.