New Delhi: FIFA Under-17 World Cup, India’s first world stage football tournament, is nearing its end. It has been somewhat successful in bringing India on the world map of football. And now FIFA president Gianni Infantino has declared that “India is a football country now.”
Infantino, who is in Kolkata, will chair the FIFA Council meeting ahead of the U-17 World Cup final between England and Spain.
Asked about the successful organisation of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the 47-year-old clad in a dark suit said: “India is a football country now. Thank you very much all the Indians. That’s most important. It’s a great pleasure to here.”
The All India Football Federation vice-president Subrata Dutta received Infantino at the airport and later in the day, he will have an informal meeting with the AIFF supremo Praful Patel who is also staying at the same hotel on EM Bypass.
According to sources, there could be discussions on India’s bid for the U-20 World Cup in 2019, chances of which have brightened after the overwhelming success of U-17 World Cup which is all set to topple China-1985 as the best-attended event in the tournament’s history.
“While that appears to be the advantage the only drawback is that the FIFA has never allowed back to back World Cup events to one country. But with FIFA Council meeting here, it can be ratified,” an official with the local organising committee said.
The meeting will also have discussions on the implementation of the contentious video assistant referee technology in Russia World Cup 2018 with the FIFA president keen on it.
Critics, however, said there’s not nearly enough proof that the process works properly and argue Infantino is rushing into technology prematurely.
Last December’s Club World Cup in Japan for the first time saw the VARs in a FIFA competition but it only drew flak for causing confusion.
The system can only be used for goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
Infantino is also the state guest of the West Bengal government and chief minister Mamata Banerjee will host a dinner for the FIFA chief.
The FIFA chief, who was accompanied by a 35-member delegation, will also attend a programme attended by a host of former footballers at Eco Park.
Then on October 28, the FIFA boss will hand over the glittering U-17 World Cup Trophy to the winners of the summit clash between England and Spain at the Salt Lake Stadium.
(With PTI inputs)