Bachchan, Nita invited for opening ceremony
- New Delhi: After maintaining all along that the FIFA U-17 World Cup wouldn’t see much of Bollywood fanfare during the tournament, the government has finally turned to the tinsel town to attract more crowds to the stadiums. PM Narendra Modi is expected to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium ahead of India’s tournament opener against the USA on October 6. The government has invited actors Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham for the function. The government would also invite the chairperson of the Reliance Foundation, Nita Ambani. PM will also felicitate 12 Indian footballers who have captained the country either at the Olympics or Asiads. The 12 names shortlisted are Samar Banerjee, PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Syed Nayeemuddin, Gurdev Singh Gill, Bhaskar Ganguly, IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia, Joaquim Abranches and Sunil Chhetri. — Sabi Hussain
Tribune News Service
Kolkata, september 29
If you happen to ask anyone in Kolkata about the refurbished Salt Lake Stadium, be prepared for a deluge of adjectives like incredible, miraculous, fantastic, mind-blowing… Kolkatans loved the iconic stadium even before it was done up for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, now they simply adore it. And they have all the reasons to be proud of it, for it’s the only football facility in the country that appears to match the highest world standards.
Just like any other top-notch sporting facility, the first thing that strikes you is its size. The big yet beautiful oval-shaped structure looks pleasing, and the approaches and ramps to the stadium are comfortable and landscaping quite aesthetic. Yet, its real splendour lies hidden inside — the lush green pitch, circled by a brownish athletics track, is a sight to behold. The blue and light blue bucket chairs, arranged neatly in the three tiers, add tremendously to the overall ambience. And the accompanying facilities, too, are state of the art. The spick and span changing rooms, top-class practice pitches, several surveillance cameras, the glittering lobby… everything seems world-class.
India won’t play here
Unfortunately, despite being the hosts, India won’t play any of their group games here, which is very strange because Kolkata is the capital of Indian football. All of India’s group games have been scheduled in New Delhi and, according to reports, the organisers are struggling to sell tickets in the capital. In contrast, tickets in Kolkata are more or less sold out. “It’s very disappointing that India won’t play any of their group matches at Salt Lake Stadium,” said Rajat Guha, the football secretary of East Bengal football club. “It would have been such a wonderful experience for them to play in this superb facility, in front of such a massive crowd. Not sure if they would get the same ambience in Delhi,” he said. India might play get to play in Kolkata only if they make the knockout stage. Apart from six group matches, the renovated stadium would hold one pre-quarterfinal, a quarterfinal, the third place playoff, and the final on October 28.
Many feel the World Cup could turn out to be the springboard Indian football needed to make a big leap forward. Manoranjan Bhattacharya, a former India player, also feels it could be the beginning of something fantastic for Indian football but a lot will depend on how the opportunity is used. “It could make a huge difference to Indian football but much will depend on what the national federation and the state associations do with it,” said Bhattacharya. “If they build on it, Indian football will benefit a lot.”
- The massive stadium, situated around 10km east of downtown Kolkata, was opened in January 1984
- The highest attendance for a single match here is 131,781 for a Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal match on July 13, 1997
- The stadium features three tiers of concrete galleries. Before renovation, the seating capacity of stadium was officially 1.1 lakh, making it the second-biggest in the world
- Post-renovation, all galleries have proper bucket seats, which means that seating capacity has been reduced from 1,10,000 to around 67,000
- The stadium was closed for renovation, which cost over Rs 100 crore, and was handed over to the FIFA organising committee of September 17
All readers are invited to post comments responsibly. Any messages with foul language or inciting hatred will be deleted. Comments with all capital letters will also be deleted. Readers are encouraged to flag the comments they feel are inappropriate.
The views expressed in the Comments section are of the individuals writing the post. The Tribune does not endorse or support the views in these posts in any manner.