Guwahati, July 19: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has formally moved Dispur for Guwahati as a venue, among six cities of the country, shortlisted for the 2017 under-17 World Cup football for which India is going to bid shortly.
In a communication to the Assam Football Association (AFA), dated July 16, AIFF president Praful Patel has quoted a Union sports ministry letter to the Assam chief secretary seeking guarantee to provide security and exemption from tax at the state level at the earliest to include Guwahati as a venue. The bid is supposed to be submitted to the FIFA by next month.
The FIFA will decide the venue nation in its December meeting. Ireland, Uzbekistan and South Africa are the other three nations bidding for the mega event.
The Union Cabinet has already approved the AIFF bid and the Centre has issued all the necessary guarantees.
Apart from Guwahati, the other cities in the fray are Calcutta, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa and Delhi. The West Bengal government has already issued the guarantee and Patel has attached a copy of the Bengal government’s letter to the AFA as a reference for the Assam government.
AFA secretary Ankur Dutta, who is also an executive member of the AIFF, said he has already taken up the matter with the directorate of sports which, in turn, has moved the files at the chief secretary’s level.
“We already have a letter from the home secretary assuring foolproof security. Let’s hope the chief secretary’s office takes up the matter on a priority basis because this is an opportunity which comes rarely for a state like ours,” Dutta said.
Sources in the directorate of sports said it would take some time because the matter of tax exemption involves several departments and the chief secretary’s office will have to obtain the nod from all of them before issuing the guarantee.
According to the February 27 letter from Union sports ministry joint secretary Onkar Kedia to the Assam chief secretary, the state government will have to assure security and exempt the tournament from all kinds of tax under its purview to consider Guwahati as a venue. The guarantee was supposed to be submitted latest by March 5 which, however, did not materialise.
Guwahati was on the verge of being wiped out of the Fifa map after an India-Palestine friendly international football match had to be shifted to Cochin early this year because of the unplayable condition of the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here.
If India wins the bid and Guwahati becomes a venue, the city will have to improve its infrastructure, including upgrade of the stadium. The Centre has proposed Rs 95 crore as assistance from its side for upgrade of the stadium.