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India says no Commonwealth shambles at U17 football World Cup

The swimming competition at the New Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games was affected by murky water and debris falling from the roof © AFP/File / MANAN VATSYAYANA

CHANGSHA, China, May 23 – India has promised that this year’s U17 football World Cup will avoid the errors of New Delhi’s 2010 Commonwealth Games, which were notorious for shoddy facilities and corruption.

Subrata Dutta, a vice-president of the All India Football Federation, said the tournament in October — the biggest football competition ever held in India — would make the country proud.

“It will be different (from the Commonwealth Games),” Dutta told AFP at the World Football Forum in Changsha, China.

“I think it will really make us proud and we will be able to give our best.”

The three-week World Cup will be played in six venues — in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Guwahati and Kochi — with the final in Kolkata on October 28.

India’s reputation as an organiser of big sports events took a dive in 2010, when incomplete infrastructure and poor conditions at the athletes’ village dominated headlines.

Among the worst incidents, a footbridge by the main stadium collapsed days before the opening ceremony, while the swimming competition was affected by murky water and debris falling from the roof.

Chief organiser Suresh Kalmadi spent 10 months in jail after being accused of financial irregularities, in one of many corruption cases surrounding the Games.

But Dutta said the infrastructure was nearly complete for the World Cup, and that FIFA inspectors arriving in July “will find everything in place”.

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“We would give our best to deliver the best ever U17 World Cup. We are working on this for the past two-and-a-half years and we have nearly built up the infrastructure that is required… the finishing touches are on now,” Dutta said.

“Everything has been looked after by the professionals,” he added. “FIFA has been guiding us at regular intervals and I’m sure that we will put up a very good show.”

The U17 World Cup represents a step forward for football in cricket-crazy India, which despite its 1.3 billion population lies 100th in the FIFA rankings — already its highest position since 1993.

The franchise-based Indian Super League, featuring former stars like Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Forlan, has proved a success, drawing big crowds and TV audiences since its launch in 2013.

Ticket sales for the World Cup have started well, with the first phase of seats for Kolkata selling out within hours of becoming available last week, Dutta said.

India has also launched a “Mission XI Million” grassroots project to bring football to 11 million children in 15,000 schools across 36 cities.

Dutta said if the U17 tournament goes well, India would bid for the U20 World Cup, which is also held every two years.

But he added: “I think we have to wait for a while until we’re capable of a senior World Cup.”

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