As India gears up for hosting the most important footballing event ever, the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, support from all over the world are pouring in for the Blue Colts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be a part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup's opening day proceedings at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (JLN Stadium). All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel on the eve of tournament confirmed PM Modi's presence at the stadium. Amarjit Singh Kiyam-led India will start their campaign against USA in their opening game at JLN Stadium, New Delhi on October 6.
Patel had said last week that he had extended an invitation to the prime minister to attend India's opening match.
FIFA tournaments generally do not have opening ceremonies worldwide and the sport's governing body was never comfortable with the Indian government's plan of having an elaborate opening ceremony for the tournament.
"FIFA and the Local Organising Committee of the FIFA U-17 World Cup have been working very closely with the Government of India to make the upcoming tournament a great success. During the course of this work, FIFA has been informed about the Government of India's interest in holding an opening ceremony for the FIFA U-17 World Cup," FIFA's Head of Tournaments Jaime Yarza told PTI in an e-mail interview.
"To be in line with previous tournaments, and in the best interest of the sport, we believe that the main focus should remain on football and the players, and that the investment necessary for an opening ceremony is better deployed in the youth and in football development of the country - even more so now with the AIFF's ambitious plans to lay solid foundations for India's footballing future," Yarza further added.
Commenting on the opening ceremony, Patel said, "FIFA is very clear on this, FIFA only says don't do it on the actual field of play. It's (opening ceremony) happening tomorrow and the prime minister is coming, there will be a little ceremony."
Patel said he is expecting a turnout of 50,000 at the stadium. "There will be a lot of children from some chosen schools. It will be a strong home support for our team," he said.
India will play their first match against USA on October 6. The second match will be against Colombia on October 9 and the third will be against Ghana on October 12. All the matches are scheduled for 20:00 IST.
(with PTI inputs)