Less than 50 days to go; the U17 FIFA World Cup in India is gaining momentum. The stadiums in India are ready and the teams are gearing up for the adrenalin pumping game. Here are the top stories cooking in the dressing rooms as the soccer extravaganza in India comes closer.
No Indian referees
India has no representation in terms of match officials in the upcoming U-17 FIFA World Cup. FIFA for the first time has appointed women referees for men’s World Cup; however, there were no Indian names in the list of 21 trios and seven support officials (all women) announced on Tuesday.
Although there are no Indian referees in the Asian Football Confederation’s elite group trained for the major tournaments around the world, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) expected that FIFA might make an exception considering India as the host nation for the World Cup this year.
“We think it’s time for elite female referees to be involved in a FIFA men’s competition. They worked together with male match officials last year and now we want to see them working together in a competition,” said FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca.
Indian colts opening up says, Matos
The Head Coach of the Indian U-17 squad, Luis Norton de Matos recently said that the Indian players have started to unveil their strengths with every passing game. He stressed on detecting weaknesses when facing challenges in the games and the last game against Chile where India came back from a goal down to finish the score line level shows the character of the young colts taking shape.
“The team lost its shyness with every passing game in the four-nation tournament and they (Indian U-17s) unveiled their personality one game at a time. The ultimate reward of that was the last game against Chile which finished in a draw”, Matos said. Matos praised the “extraordinary never-say-die attitude” of the Indian U-17 World Cup Squad in the four-nation tournament wherein the Indian colts faced Chile, Colombia, and Mexico in Mexico City earlier this month.
“The boys were extraordinary attitude wise. They demonstrated the enormous capacity of sacrifice and adaptation in the conditions that were extremely hard”, Matos said.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) August 16, 2017
Sunil Gulati in two minds
The FIFA Council member and the Chairman of the Organising Committee for the U-17 World Cup, Sunil Gulati was in India during the group draw in Mumbai. Born in India and raised in the US, Gulati’s heart was split during the draw as the opening match of Group A came out to be the hosts India facing the US.
“Every World Cup draw is exciting, but the fact that the US is drawn into the same group as India is especially meaningful for me,” Gulati told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “The overall tournament will be an inspiring event for the sport in India, and the chance for the US to help open the tournament on the first day is a special opportunity. Of course, with Ghana, a perennial power at the U-17 level and Colombia in the group, it won’t be only about the US and India.”
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) August 17, 2017
Football Takes Over
A single FIFA tournament has rightly changed the paradigm of India’s perspective towards the sport. The slogan of the U-17 FIFA World Cup is “Football Takes Over” and rightly so as it inspires various youth groups to play the sport.
Goa recently hosted a women’s football festival from August 5 to 13 with the motto of the event, ‘Our Body, Our Rights, Our Game’. In addition to the women’s football tournament contested by eight Indian teams, the festival also included a girls’ football camp, an international coaching programme and a workshop.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) August 13, 2017
Women’s football in India is still very much a minority sport and is often subject to prejudice. Thanks to the country’s remarkable religious diversity, the event in Goa brought together more than 100 women from diverse religious backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs.