U17 World Cup scheduling could see ISL, I-League time-table head for a toss

FIFA’s tournament director for the U17 World Cup implied the AIFF had a plan chalked out for accommodating both domestic tourneys, spoke on AFC U16 C’ship venues …

Javier Ceppi, FIFA’s tournament director for the U17 World Cup, scheduled to be hosted in the subcontinent in 2017, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by revealing that the competition could be scheduled between the months of September and October thereby implying that all domestic tournaments will be delayed to accomodate what he termed as ‘India’s most prestigious event to date.’

“This is by far the most important sporting event to be held in India. All other tournaments, with due respect, will have to take a back-seat as per Fifa regulations. No other football event can happen one month before the tournament and 15 business days after the end of the tournament,“ revealed Ceppi, to the Times of India, in Goa.

The people hitherto familiar with India’s football calendar know that the Indian Super League (ISL) begins only during this period of the year, followed by the I-League in early January. However, hosting of the tournament will see the ISL pushed back to November, as FIFA conditions stress that no domestic league can begin before the eleventh month to accomodate easy logistics during the tournament. This schedule could see the hosting of the I-League, India’s premier football competion, head into limbo.

Explaining that the decision to host the U17 World Cup were taken factoring in the timing of the 2013 and 2015 editions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Chile respectively, Ceppi elucidated, “The initial dates suggested to us (by Fifa) were October 17 to November 8, just like the last two editions of the tournament due to weather conditions in India. But, we settled for September-October keeping in mind the domestic calendar, although there is risk of monsoon in some parts of the country.”

Ceppi further added that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) were fully onboard with the plan, stating, “The AIFF already has an agreement with Fifa that no football activity, apart from the (U17) World Cup, will take place during the blocked dates. It was part of the bid document.”

Meanwhile, Ceppi was also at the inspection of venues for hosting the Asian Football Confederations (AFC) U16 championship next year, 2016, in Goa and was pleased with the short-listed venues – Fatorda’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and Bambolim’s GMC Athletic stadium. Besides the main stadia, six training facilties could be chosen from amongst Tilak Maidan, Nagoa, Utorda, Benaulim, Navelim, Raia, Cuncolim and Assolna.

“Goa has been chosen as a provisional venue to host the U-16 AFC Championship Finals 2016. This is the first full inspection of the AFC team where they will see the quality of the venues. The AIFF believes Goa has all the right component to be confirmed as hosts, although there are a number of things that need to be put in place before the official selection,” expressed Ceppi.

He further added, “We are confident that Goa will be able to meet all the requirements. The AFC should be in a position to confirm next week what they have witnessed in Goa and what the challenges are (to host the event).”

– Nikhil Jitendran


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