Football fans, keep your fingers crossed.
Dark horse Ranchi may become one of India’s six cities to host the 2017 Fifa U-17 World Cup, courtesy Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s ringing endorsement.
Earlier this month, India wrested its maiden opportunity to host this showpiece soccer extravaganza during the bidding process in Brazil after agreeing to extensive Fifa norms.
Then, All India Football Federation (AIFF) picked eight cities as tentative venues, to be trimmed down to the best six that would host 52 international matches in 2017.
Ranchi gets a sporting chance, as Calcutta and Mumbai, among the tentative eight — others being New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Goa, Kochi and Guwahati — haven’t found favour with the AIFF.
Union minister Ramesh requested AIFF president and Congress veteran Praful Patel to consider Ranchi when the latter remarked the infrastructure at Calcutta’s Salt Lake Stadium and Mumbai’s Cooperage Ground did not meet the global cut.
In his letter dated December 12, Ramesh told Patel: “Ranchi today has the best of facilities for any sporting events and I am sure you will be impressed by these facilities as I have been. I am sure the state government will provide whatever assistance AIFF desires to enable hosting of the matches in Ranchi.”
A copy of the letter has been sent to chief minister Hemant Soren.
Calcutta and Mumbai arenas have artificial turf, while Birsa Munda Football Stadium, in the capital’s Morabadi, boasts natural greens that FIFA prefers.
But whether the capital gets to host Fifa U-17 World Cup will depend on how seriously the state government takes up the case.
When contacted, state sports minister Geetashree Oraon sounded most enthusiastic.
“I will soon take up the matter with AIFF and the Centre to ensure Ranchi’s entry for the world soccer tie. Right from the day I assumed charge, my focus was to bag more and more sporting events of national and international repute right here in Jharkhand,” the minister told The Telegraph on Sunday.
“In the past two months, the state successfully hosted and lent help for events such as the first All India Police Wrestling Cluster Championship, the junior SAF games, national athletics meet and others,” she added.
A senior official at Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Ranchi said the city had an edge.
“Birsa Munda stadium has a natural turf. Plus, the stadium’s location, capacity and other facilities are liked by all. It can be made world-class with very little effort if the state government is serious,” the official said.