Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called on the nation to rally behind the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will be held in India from October 6-28 this year. In a statement, PM Modi, who had already expressed support for the event during a Mann ki Baat address last year, said that successfully hosting the tournament shouldn't be the country's lone aim, but it should also be used as a catalyst for change and to give every child in the country an opportunity to play football.
"India is going to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, but successful hosting of the event alone cannot be our final objective. FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 must be a catalyst for change, the tipping point for football in the country, which can only be done by creating a mass movement around it. The objective is to give an opportunity to every child in the country to play football," he said.
Modi also gave his backing to the Mission XI Million initiative, a legacy programme for the U-17 World Cup, which aims to evolve into India's biggest outreach sporting activity following the tournament.
"Mission XI Million will take the beautiful game of football to at least 11 million boys and girls around the country. Children in every state, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Kutch to Arunachal Pradesh will get a chance to learn, play and enjoy football. More than 15000 schools around the country will be partners in this," he said.
Calling on parents to encourage their children to play football, Modi added, "We need the support not just of children but also of every parent and every teacher to encourage boys and girls to play football and develop both skill and fitness. I am confident that these children will be able to take Indian football to its rightful place in the world."
Responding to the Prime Minister's statement, 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup Tournament Director Javier Ceppi said, "We have been working very hard on making this a success. This backing from Prime Minster Modi will only strengthen our resolve to make this the most popular and watched World Cup in India and help change Indian football."