The FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup is one of the most awaited tournaments to be contested in India later this year but the outbreak of the COVID-19 has cast severe doubts over its future. The tournament will be held in India from November 2 to 21 and only two of the 16 teams – Japan and North Korea – have qualified so far. As hosts, India are the assured third team.
Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai are the five venues chosen to host the qualifiers but even though the stadiums are ready for the big stage, the organisers are worried about the crisis at hand.
“We are currently monitoring the situation regarding Covid-19 in India in close collaboration with the Local Organising Committee (LOC) as well as other key stakeholders, including the AIFF (All India Football Federation), sports ministry and relevant authorities in the country,” a FIFA Spokesperson told Times of India.
“With public health and safety in mind, we are also working with the LOC to identify any potential impact on preparations for the tournament, as well as finding alternative solutions to upcoming events that were planned in the lead up to the tournament. Regarding qualifying tournaments for the event, we are currently working closely with confederations regarding alternate dates.”
The CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championships (scheduled for April 18-May 3), South American U-17 championships (April 15-May 3) and the Oceania U-17 Championship (April 6-19) are the three qualifying tournaments that have already been postponed. Besides, the EURO Championship has already been shifted to next year, while there is no certainty over the biggest sporting event of the year –Tokyo Olympics 2020.
However, there is a provision of the working out alternate dates if by closer to the tournament, the existing situation doesn’t improve, said LOC tournament director Roma Khanna as he provided updates about the five venues.
“We are in contact with FIFA on the qualifying events. FIFA is working closely together with confederations on their respective qualifying tournaments. Locally, we had to postpone our kick-off the Dream football carnivals (promotional events) for this month. We will continue to monitor the situation in relation to future events that are planned to take place in host cities and around the country,” Khanna told TOI.
“Things are on track at all the five venues. Three of these (Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai) have already hosted U-17 World Cup in 2017 matches and already meet the majority of FIFA requirements. The two new venues planned for the tournament, Ahmedabad and Bhubaneswar, also have the basic infrastructure ready and work at the training sites is underway.”