U-17 World Cup: FIFA impressed with Kochi’s progress

Yarza made it clear that the cricket pitches in the centre of the Nehru Stadium needed to be removed and the football ground renovated.

Jaime Yarza, FIFA's Head of Events (right), with Tournament DirectorJavier Ceppi at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.   -  H. Vibhu

Kochi, which is preparing to host next year’s under-17 football World Cup, got high marks from the nine-member team from the world body FIFA, which was in the city on Monday to inspect the championship venue and the four training grounds. The team sounded impressed with the pace of progress.

“Congratulations to the State and the Kerala Football Association for the huge improvement,” said Spaniard Jaime Yarza, FIFA’s Head of Events, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here which has been provisionally selected to host league matches of the group stage.

Cricket Wickets To Be Removed

Yarza made it clear that the cricket pitches in the centre of the Nehru Stadium needed to be removed and the football ground renovated. Work will also have to be done on the players’ dressing rooms, media centre, VIP area and the parking space for vehicles outside the stadium.

“Kochi has shown a major improvement from what I have seen earlier,” said Javier Ceppi, the tournament director.

First Full-Fledged Visit

This is the first full-fledged visit of the FIFA team for the under-17 World Cup, which is likely to be held in October 2017, and Kochi was the first city the group visited.

Kochi is one of the six cities which have been provisionally picked to host the World Cup, the first-ever football World Cup to be held in India. The other five cities are Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Goa and Guwahati.

The other members of the FIFA team were Tracy Lu, Felipe Restrepo, Vijay Parthasarathy (all from the competitions department), Christina Hoelleri (marketing), Jochem Steinhoff (media), Paul Calder (TV), Jean Pierre Arnaud Koeltgen (protocol) and Shaji Prabhakaran (FIFA Development Officer).

Another bunch of officials from the local organising committee, including Joy Bhattacharya (project director), Roma Khanna (head of venue operations), Suvrat Thatte (head of competitions) and Subrata Dutta (member, LOC board) were also in Kochi. Also present were Mohammed Haneesh, the Kerala Government’s Nodal Officer for the World Cup, and the GCDA Chairman N. Venugopal.

Around Rs 25 crores, with the Central and State Governments contributing equally, will be spent for work on the Nehru Stadium and this will include 55,000 new seats, explained Haneesh. The upgradation work at the main stadium will have to be completed before September 30 this year.

Apart from this, the work on the four training grounds – Fort Kochi Veli (Rs 5 crore), Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies at Panangad (Rs 1.5 crore), Panampilly Nagar Sports Academy (Rs 11 crore) and Maharaja’s Stadium (Rs 3.88 crore) is expected to go over Rs 20 crore.

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