FIFA shifted India's group matches of the upcoming Under-17 World Cup from Mumbai to New Delhi on Saturday following an All India Football Federation (AIFF) request. The AIFF initially wanted the group matches to be played in Mumbai but later asked FIFA to shift them to the Capital under pressure from the sports ministry. The government felt it was appropriate if the host team's home matches were played in Delhi.
"Following a request from the AIFF to hold the group matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in which India are playing in New Delhi, and the fruitful discussions between the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the local government, FIFA has agreed to amend the match schedule," the Local Organising Committee (LOC) said in a statement.
As per the amended schedule, Group A, featuring the home team, which is automatically seeded as A1, will be based in New Delhi and teams of Group B will be based in Navi Mumbai. Matches for the knockout stage remain as planned before.
Praising the increased efforts of LOC, FIFA's Head of Tournaments Jaime Yarza said, "Attendance, especially in the venue where the home team plays its matches, is one of the priorities of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, crucial to achieving the purpose of better positioning football in the country, so the government's commitment in this regard is highly appreciated."
He further added, "The presence of the secretary of sports at the meetings concerning the state of the works in the stadium and training sites sends a positive message and reflects the strong involvement of the authorities."
On the matches in Delhi, Yarza said, "We expect this involvement to extend into the area of pollution prevention, which has been an important topic discussed in relation to the tournament, in particular in Delhi. We are now expecting an action response plan to prevent pollution levels from affecting the tournament, which ideally should continue beyond the tournament."
Besides India, who have automatically qualified as hosts, the following teams have booked their tickets to the competition:
Asia: Iran, Iraq, Japan, Korea DPR
Oceania: New Caledonia, New Zealand
South America: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay
North, Central America and Caribbean: Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, USA
Europe: England, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey
Africa: Mali, Niger, Ghana, and Guinea
(With PTI Inputs)