The government on Thursday gave the go-ahead to India's ambitious bid to host the U-17 Football World Cup in 2017, thus boosting the country's chances of organising the tournament that is already being backed by FIFA vice-president Jerome Valcke.
"The Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the proposal for submitting guarantees sought by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) from the Government of India for their bid to host the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Under 17 World Cup Football Tournament in 2017 in India," a statement issued by the Sports Ministry said.
Till now uncertainty loomed large over India's bid as FIFA, world football's governing body, needed guarantees on tax exemption, security, transport and accommodation of players, visa and foreign exchange.
India's first bid was rejected earlier this year, in January, due to insufficient assurances from the government. But with the government giving the green signal in providing guarantees that would meet FIFA's basic requirements, it has paved the way for a strong bid.
While the expenses of hosting the event will be borne by FIFA and AIFF, the government has assured additional financial assistance.
"While the expenditure for upgradation of stadia (Rs 95 crore) will be provided as additional central assistance to the State Governments, a sum of Rs 25 crore is kept as a contingency to ensure smooth conduct of the tournament.
"AIFF and FIFA have agreed to bear the entire expenditure of hosting the tournament. The amounts required are to be raised through sponsorships and other commercial agreements," the statement added.
The AIFF has proposed holding of matches in five states -- Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and one among the states of Assam, Goa and Kerala.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had, last month, approved AIFF's bid.
Following the clearance from PMO, the Sports Ministry got down to preparing a Cabinet Note for their approval.
Ireland, Uzbekistan and South Africa are the other three bidders. India will have to submit its bid by September after which the FIFA will make a final announcement in December.
FIFA's objective is to help India improve their football infrastructure and grassroots through organising the tournament. But Valcke, during his visit to the country last year, had made it clear that India will have to adhere to the norms if they hope to host the tournament.
"The proposed Under-17 World Cup would encourage more youngsters to participate in sports and also help develop the sport of football in the country. It will also promote tourism in the country.
"The event also has a lot of importance from the point of view of playing technique, training, coaching and competition exposure, etc, especially at under-17 level, and thus would be good for the future of football in India," the Ministry statement said.
During his visit, Valcke had stated: "There will no change in rules and it will be normal bidding process with countries competing. But we want the Under-17 World Cup to go to a country where the game can be developed from the grassroots.
"India is a huge football market. A country of 1.2 billion cannot lag behind in football. We see the event as the perfect platform for the development of infrastructure and grassroots development. We want to make football the number two sport in India in ten years."