Joy Bhattacharjya: Most of the things are in place for U-17 World Cup

Joy Bhattacharjya, the project director of Local Organising Committee for the mega event reveals the preparedness of venues, plans for a build-up of interest among football fans in India, and more, in a chat with Sportstar.

Joy Bhattacharya...“No matter what we do, football will be the hero of the communication unlike the other sporting events happening in the country.”   -  The Hindu

Joy Bhattacharjya, the project director of Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, is confident all bases are covered in getting most of the venues ready ahead of an inspection - Wednesday onwards - by a visiting team of FIFA. While admitting there are some areas of concern in a few venues, Bhattacharjya hoped they would not hinder the approval from the team.

An eight-member FIFA delegation led by Jaime Yarza (FIFA - Head of Tournaments) along with members of the LOC will be visiting the six venues.

In an interview with Sportstar, Mr. Bhattacharjya also elaborated on the plans to have a proper build-up to the mega event.

Q: How sure are you of the six World Cup venues being declared eligible to host the matches of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup?

A: To tell you that there is no cause for concern would not be true but certainly there is nothing to panic. Most of the things are in place and there only couple of places where there are some loose ends but mostly it is good news for us. There are some concerns about some venues but we also have back-up venues ready in case some do not fit the bill.

There are some overlays like CCTV or computers or chairs which could be put in place in the latter stages but things pertaining to the superstructure of the stadium like roof or the stands or the bucket seats [are] mostly under control. I mean, the things requiring long gestation periods have been done.

Q: If you are asked to rate the venues on the scale of preparedness, how many will pass the test?

A: I cannot pick any particular venue on the rate of assessment. That is the job of the FIFA inspection team to determine. They are the ones who will be assessing which venue will host the final or the semifinals apart from evaluating the standard and the preparedness on different parameters like interest of the State, crowd control, security, stadium, pollution among others.

Q: Is it true that some venues are yet to get themselves ready to the specifications?

A: No situation is [a] completely ideal situation, and definitely there are things which we need to sort out very fast. But largely most of the major things have been addressed.

Q: Filling up the venues in every match will also be a big challenge for the LOC. How do you look at it?

A: Let’s take for example the case of Vinicius Junior. This Brazilian Under-17 team player is now one of the hot properties of world football. Players like him will be seen in action and we also get to see many of the future stars of international football in the making here. I am sure there will a lot of amazing players who are going to start their careers in India. In reality, we may now be underestimating the excitement this tournament is going to generate.

On our side, we are working with schools all across the country to build up the momentum. We have reached more than a million kids in more than 2500 schools through the Mission XI Million programme in the non-World Cup venue cities. Now we will be starting the World Cup venue cities. There are a lot of things planned to be done on that front. The cities hosting the World Cup matches are also interested in supporting us.

Q: How are you planning to build up the hype?

A: We are going to get an anthem and there will [be a] lot of government involvement too in the promotion of the tournament. Even the [Indian Premier League] starts advertising 20 days before the tournament. We do not have that amount of money to start it right now and sustain it for six months. What we will be aiming now is publicity through ‘Earned Media’ ahead of the draw in July and once that happens we will start hitting up. The real build-up in terms of hoarding and advertisement will happen closer to the start of the tournament. The draw will set us in the slog-overs of the build-up when the World Cup will travel around the country with FIFA legends coming regularly for promotions.

Q: Traditionally the opening ceremonies and promotion of the tournaments in the country has seen a lot of involvement of showbiz or Bollywood in particular. Will the U-17 World Cup also draw the same influences?

A: No matter what we do, football will be the hero of the communication unlike the other sporting events happening in the country. I can say the sport and sportsmen will be at the centre stage of the inauguration, not any politician or a film star. We have a glorious history of football from (Swami) Vivekananda to (Mahatma) Gandhi who have spoken about Indian football. It is not that football is an alien concept to us and so, there is a lot to be done about it.

Here, let me tell you FIFA’s approach to the game is a lot different from others sports, which is evident in the way they conduct the inspections ahead of the tournaments. The first thing they will inspect is the ground, next they inspect the players’ dressing rooms and the players facilities and then comes the facilities for the spectators. Later, they look at media facilities and the last thing they look for are the arrangements for the VIPs. And in India, we do just the other way round.

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