The Telegraph
Saturday , March 1 , 2014
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Fifa delegation is satisfied

Calcutta: How one wishes that there were frequent inspections of the Salt Lake Stadium! That’s because it is only for an inspection that the monstrous stadium sports a civilised look.

Friday was one such day for the stadium as a Fifa delegation visited the venue as part of the world body’s preliminary inspection for the 2017 U-17 World Cup.

With its corridors decked up in fresh coats of paint and almost all visible corners wearing a clean look, the stadium welcomed the delegation, which was led by Inaki Alvarez, head of event management competitions division, Fifa.

Even the lift received a facelift with a smiling Cristiano Ronaldo poster peeping out of it.

The efforts seemed to have bore fruit as after a two-hour long inspection of the venue, the delegation weren’t dissatisfied with what they saw. Inaki was particularly impressed with the space available within the stadium premises.

“It’s a massive stadium… There’s a lot of space. Having space is good… Now, we will have to find ways on how to utilise that space in the best possible manner,” Inaki said at the post-inspection media conference.

Asked specifically if he was satisfied with the stadium, Alvarez said: “Overall, I will say that we are satisfied. I will not go into the details as this is just a preliminary inspection.”

The city is among the eight venues shortlisted for Fifa inspections. The other venues are Kochi, Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Guwahati.

The artificial turf at the stadium has been one of the main topics of discussions. While many thought that Fifa would want it replaced by natural grass, Inaki refused to come clear on any such possibility.

“I’m not the ideal person to talk about the technicalities of the ground… But it looked in decent shape. It’s not just about the World Cup… We will have to keep in mind the overall situation, about how the game is played here… So we will not take a hurried decision.”

On whether Fifa has already given any suggestions to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the improvement of the venues, Alvarez said: “We have spoken on various topics… And we will be doing so in the future as well. We are analysing the situation and facilities in India.

“It will take several months to reach a conclusion through proper analysis. I think by this time next year we will have a clearer picture.”

Alvarez, who revealed that they were focusing on standard football facilities at the venues, also visited the SAI Eastern Complex ground, the Jadavpur Stadium and the Howrah Stadium to check out possible practice grounds.