Under-17 World Cup: 27,000 schoolkids go without water, footballers plead for passes

AIFF bussed in the children from neighbouring Haryana to avoid the embarrassment of showcasing empty stands to the world but is left with egg on its face

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

NH Sports Bureau

The atmosphere at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium during the matches of the FIFA Under-17 world Cup played on the first day was unique and unprecedented in the history of football. Have you heard football fans chanting ‘Vande Mataram’ or its equivalent anywhere around the world? Well, may be once upon a time in Nazi Germany.

The official count of attendance was a little above 46,000, a respectable number, one must say. But you ought to know that 27,000 school children were bussed in from Haryana to fill up the stands. They were given blue T-shirts and caps. Stands were either vacant or were flooded with school kids wearing those blue Tees.

Now, while the authorities made sure that the Tees and caps were in abundant supply, they somehow forgot that drinking water was also a necessity. These kids had a tough time as they came early and not sufficient drinking water was available. Many wanted to purchase water paying large sums but there was not a drop to drink. The kids were raising slogans of Vande Mataram, clearly instructed to do so. There were not sufficient garbage disposal bins and as a result, the stands wore the look of giant dustbins.

What was painful was to see Delhi’s football players pleading for passes. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is not ready to give passes to Delhi clubs. Only three passes were given to each club for their officials and players. There are 80 football clubs in Delhi. It was the Delhi Soccer Association president Subhash Chopra who managed to give some more passes to the clubs.

It is pitiable that football players and lovers of the game are not getting passes whereas students, mostly clueless and disinterested in the game, are being brought in from neighbouring states to fill the stands. And, even that did not work. Even the VIP enclosures were not full and just after the Prime Minister left the stadium, a good number of VIPs also left as they appeared least interested in the match or the Indian team’s performance. It is to be noticed that there are no big hoardings or advertisements of the event in the national capital.

To add icing to this cake of mismanagement, while former Indian legends were being honoured, all-time great goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly’s name was announced but he didn’t get the award and instead, legendary striker Magan Singh got the award but his name was not announced.

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