A few weeks ago, FIFA announced that India will host the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup. Although I’ve believed for some time that this announcement would go in India’s favor – dating back to a year and a half ago when my colleagues and I drove down to a 5 star hotel just to hear FIFA President Sepp Blatter and General Secretary Jerome Valcke share this news - it was still nice to get a confirmation.
On the day of the announcement, our Managing Director and I happened to be in the All India Football Federation office and the atmosphere was certainly enjoyable . Sweets being passed around, many pats on people’s backs, hugs and hope in everyone’s eyes from the receptionist to the General Secretary. It reminded me of what it was like walking around New York City after Barack Obama was elected President for the first time in 2008.
On a more personal level, I remain cautiously optimistic about this announcement with optimistic being the key word. Now that I’ve been in India for the past couple of years working 100% in the sports space, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of positives and….I’ve also experienced people/situations/incidents which I wish I could remove from my memory (like the company Laguna did in the movie Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind which I just saw the other day).
Anyway, in light of the above sentiment, I’ve decided to list out my 5 positives and 5 concerns which surfaced in my mind soon after India finally won the World Cup bid. I’ll start with the positives listed in no particular order and then move on to the concerns also listed in no particular order:
- Guaranteed investment in world class infrastructure in 6 different cities spread out across the country
- Guaranteed investment in Indian youth development, not just checking the box type, but real focused investment in developing a group of players who can compete at the international level
- Foreign technical staff Rob Baan and Scott O’Donnell have a reason to remain in India
- Indian football stakeholders have something tangible to look forward to
- For a few weeks, around 25 Indian boys will have the opportunity to compete in a FIFA World Cup in their home soil and hundreds of millions of other boys and girls will watch and dream
- 2010 Commonwealth Games
- In the years leading up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup, most national focus and resource shifts to this month long event and establishing a strong domestic professional league becomes less of a priority (see preparation for 2011 Asian Cup)
- Many stakeholders who have invested millions of dollars into football never to see a penny in return, will see this event as an opportunity to make some of their money back
- FIFA will have to jump in and “save the day” further decreasing FIFA and AFC confidence in India’s ability to leverage international resources to develop its football industry
- 2010 Commonwealth Games
As I said though, optimistic is the key word in my outlook of India hosting this event. It’s going to be an exciting an interesting next couple of years as we all work together to ensure World Cup success both on and off the pitch.