India’s first FIFA tournament to be staged in Delhi

New Delhi (AFP) – The Under-17 World Cup will kick off in New Delhi, marking India’s first-ever FIFA tournament, world football’s governing body said Monday despite initial concern over air quality in the world’s most polluted capital.

After a week-long inspection, authorities selected six cities across the country including Mumbai and New Delhi for the U-17 matches, FIFA said.

“The match schedule has been created following a thorough analysis of players’ health, competition format, team movements, weather, local festivities, geography and other factors,” said Jaime Yarza, head of FIFA tournaments, in a statement.

Last month FIFA U-17 World Cup tournament director Javier Ceppi said that air quality in Delhi was a “serious concern”, particularly since the tournament will be held in the same month as the Diwali festival, when residents celebrate by setting huge amounts of fireworks.

Pollution levels spiked to record levels in Delhi around Diwali last year, forcing schools to shut as authorities ordered a series of emergency measures including a temporary ban on construction. 

A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.

Monday’s statement said at least eight matches would be held at each venue, with India’s football-mad city of Kolkata set to host the final at its Salt Lake Stadium.

While cricket is India’s number one sport, Kolkata is often regarded as the premier football city and it is just as common to see youngsters kicking a ball on the streets as wielding a bat.

India are currently 130th in the FIFA world rankings, wedged between minnows Suriname and the Dominican Republic and with little sign that an upturn in fortunes is around the corner.

The Under-17 World Cup will be held from October 6-28.

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