The FIFA U-17 World Cup in India this year promises to have a grand opening with three former World Cup winners and absolute legends of the game – Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Diego Maradona – set to grace the biggest footballing stage India has had yet.
According to sources, the Government of India has requested the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to rope in the aforementioned superstars to raise the profile of the U-17 World Cup. India will host a FIFA tournament for the first time ever, hence the government’s intervention to make it grander is understandable.
At different stages of the U-17 World Cup’s preparation, iconic footballers have visited the country, lending the age-group tournament in India a global appeal. Spain’s former World Cup winning defender Carles Puyol kick started the World Cup’s ticket sales in May this year, while Nwankwo Kanu and Esteban Cambiasso were the main attraction of the draw that took place last month.
That said, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Maradona are certainly a notch above Puyol, Kanu and Cambiasso and their presence during the opening ceremony will certainly add glamour to the U-17 World Cup.
The U-17 World Cup kicks off on 6th October with four matches scheduled on the opening day. The opening ceremony, on 5th October, was originally planned to be staged at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi but FIFA’s refusal to open the gates a day before the start of the tournament means that the Indira Gandhi Arena will be the venue for the gala.
FIFA doesn’t endorse the concept of opening ceremony but the Government of India is keen to portray the country’s progress using the U-17 World Cup and the development programmes it kick-started as a tool. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to deliver a 15-minute speech during the opening ceremony which will witness the presence of top Indian personalities including senior national team players and movie stars.
The biggest attraction for football fans on 5th October will definitely be the three legends of the game. Brazil and Argentina are two national teams who enjoy fanatical following in India, and Maradona, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are three of the best footballers to have ever come out of the two South American countries.
It remains to be seen whether the government’s wishes are fulfilled. If they are, Indian football fans are in for a treat.