Indian football pitches not fit for World Cup matches: Official

Panaji, June 29 (IANS) India does not have a single football pitch good enough to host a FIFA World Cup match, a senior FIFA official said on Monday.

Javier Ceppi, world football’s governing body FIFA’s tournament director for the U-17 World Cup 2017 has also ruled out hiring foreign consultants to improve football pitches, adding that the global football body was willing to help Indian government agencies to work on the quality of pitch infrastructure as a capacity building measure.

“Pitch has to be in perfect condition. So whatever we have seen now around the country, the pitch has to be in much better condition than every single pitch we have seen in the country so far. Much much better,” Ceppi told reporters at a press conference in Panaji, where he officially announced the selection of Goa as a provisional venue for the Under-17 World Cup.

Ceppi also said the six provisional venues shortlisted for the 2017 tournament, namely Kolkata, New Delhi, Kochi, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai and Goa, would have to upgrade the football pitch to the standards seen in the world’s best football tournaments.

“Did you see the Championship final in Berlin or did you see the World Cup in Brazil. That is the standard we are looking at. Ladies and gentlemen this is the World Cup, it is not your average tournament. It’s a World Cup. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity” Ceppi said.

Asking the officials in charge of the six provisional venues to up their game, Ceppi said that if any venue failed to make the quality grade before a FIFA ratification team inspects them in September 2016, three other venues – Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune – were on standby.

“There are nine shortlisted venues and this is important for everybody to know. In addition to the six provisionally selected, are Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune. And they are ready to take anybody’s place. Bengaluru for instance they are building their stadium. So if anybody falls behind we will not hesitate to replace a venue. It is within our powers, it’s within our rights,” Ceppi said.

The official also said that the fear of losing an opportunity to host World Cup games would serve as a “motivation for all the selected provisional venues that they cannot fall asleep, because if they fall asleep, it will end up being more difficult for them”.

Ceppi also said that FIFA was against hiring foreign consultants for pitch improvements, adding that it would be better if the host venue develops capacity with adequate support from the football body.

“No, we will not be hiring or appointing foreign consultants, unless we are facing a situation where we feel we want to hire foreign consultants. The venue people can maintain the grounds to a higher standard,” Ceppi said.

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