Goa has been one of the sacred homes of football in India. Goan football has often been the uniting factor in times of difficulties. Unfortunately, the rich and passionate Goan football culture of yesteryears is eroding. The lack of passion, roaring support and faithful supporters have left the World Football governing body in knots over whether Goa deserves a marquee match in the 2017 Fifa under-17 World Cup.
As per a ToI report, Goa could miss out on marquee matches at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup later this year if the crowd interest continues to be lukewarm.
Goan Football charisma on the wane?
Apart from FC Goa matches in the ISL, only a few hundred spectators have shown up at stadiums to watch Goa, or other teams in action. Meanwhile, some matches are played in front of near empty stadiums.
The empty stadiums throw up an introspective question – Should football continue to be our State Sport if we do not participate? We do not necessarily have to be supporters of either team, but could we be passionate spectators?
Regrettably, the lack of support has been noticed by Fifa, who have raised their concerns about the same.
What did Jaime Yarza, Fifa’s head of tournaments have to say?
“We saw during the AFC U-16 Championship that there was very small crowd attending the tournament. The public did not respond as we expected. It’s a big concern for us obviously. If you have India playing in your home country, there are (only) about 4,000 spectators. That’s far away from having a full stadium,” said Jaime Yarza, Fifa’s head of tournaments, in a ToI report.
“Everything is open (at this stage). The big concern is the public response for matches as we could see during the AFC Championship. This is our biggest concern right now. We are trying to see how best we can resolve the situation,” said Yarza.
A seven-member Fifa delegation led by Yarza was in India to inspect the stadiums, along with members of the local organizing committee (LOC). The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi was the first venue to be inspected.
“You can see that a lot of improvement has happened here in Goa. We are satisfied with the support of the authorities; they are doing a fantastic job. It was a good test to have the AFC qualifiers here. You can see that most of the requirements that we had requested have been finalized. The stadium is in much better shape,” said Yarza.
Goa, one of the six venues for the tournament, are guaranteed to host one group which will involve six matches. But asked specifically if Goa could be considered for some of the knock-out matches, particularly semifinals, Yarza said Goa’s chances were as good as any of the six venues, if the crowd responds enthusiastically to the U-17 World Cup.
The Fifa U-17 World Cup is the biggest football event in the subcontinent and will run from October 6-28.