FIFA U-17 Women’s WC: ‘Tough decision to cancel, but in best interest’ (IANS Exclusive)

Kolkata, April 4 (IANS) The postponement of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, scheduled to be played in November in India, will not derail preparations for the tournament as the country is still committed to “delivering a memorable” meet whenever it is possible, Roma Khanna, the tournament director of the Local Organising Committee, said.

FIFA, the world’s governing body for football, on Saturday announced that it took the decision to postpone the U-17 Women’s World Cup after FIFA-Confederations working group, which was recently established by the Bureau of the FIFA Council to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, recommended the same.
The U-17 World Cup was scheduled to be held at five venues in India from November 2-21.
“We were, of course, looking forward to the tournament but everyone understands the current situation and has been supportive,” Roma told IANS in an interview.
“The fact that three of the venues (Kolkata, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati) have already hosted a FIFA tournament in the past helps and the other venues seem on track. Everyone is committed to ensuring that this does not impact us much and we move ahead with our planning and deliver a memorable U-17 Women’s World Cup in India,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic has virtually stopped all sporting activities in the world with mega tournaments like Euro 2020 and Copa America being pushed back, besides the Tokyo Olympics also meeting the same fate.
“The safety of all the stakeholders, including players and fans, remain of utmost importance to us. At a time when the everyone globally and the nation is fighting a pandemic, football takes a backseat. Health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times,” said Roma.
She added that the LOC will work with FIFA to chalk out alternate dates best suited to host the tournament in India which has previously hosted the U-17 Men’s World Cup which was won by England.
“We shall work with FIFA to look at alternate dates best suited to host the tournament in India. At present, in collaboration with FIFA, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Hosting States, national and international health authorities, we are constantly monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19 in India.”
“We are in regular touch with FIFA and all the other concerned stakeholders. Three of the venues (Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai) hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 and already meet the majority of FIFA requirements. The two new venues, Ahmedabad and Bhubaneswar, also have the basic infrastructure ready. We also already had one round of FIFA inspections in November at all five of these venues, which went really well.
“It is a tough decision but it is in the best interest of everyone especially the players. As I have said before, the safety of the players, fans and all the other stakeholders is of utmost importance to us. We look forward to hosting a spectacular FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in the near future,” she concluded.