Much like its male counterpart, the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup is not one of the most popular events among those that football's governing body conducts. However, the 2017 U17 World Cup that was held in India garnered record numbers which raises hopes for a similar showing at the 2020 edition of the Women's U17 World Cup which will be held in the country in just under a year's time.
One of the many firsts that the tournament has is an Indian as its tournament director in Roma Khanna. Roma is heading an entirely Indian local organising committee (LOC). She was part of the 2017 tournament as head of venues operations.
"Being involved with the 2017 World Cup of course I say the goal is to carry forward the good and improve on the learnings to do better in 2020. This is not just for us as the Local Organising Committee, but for various stakeholders including state governments, and other authorities," Roma told IANS.
"There is a certain level of familiarity with the processes, but then each tournament brings in its own charm, uniqueness and challenges."
Bhubaneswar is the only city that has thus far been confirmed as a venue and Roma said that there will be more clarity on host cities after a FIFA inspection that will be conducted at the end of November.
"We'll be visiting the proposed cities and look at the readiness of each venue. There are many rounds of assessments that happen where we see how things are shaping up at each venue, and the upcoming FIFA visit is important to that end. This will be the first time many members of the FIFA delegation will visit the venues along with the LOC," she said.
While the infrastructure for football, in general, leaves a lot to be desired in the country, women's football is almost non-existent. Roma said that one of the challenges that the tournament looks to overcome is to showcase women's football to the Indian audience. She said that the response that has come in for the official emblem launch, which was conducted on November 2 in Mumbai, was quite encouraging.
"Our first major milestone was the launch of the official emblem of the tournament and this was successfully executed with all the stakeholders at the iconic Gateway of India. We are extremely excited to see the response that we have got and it gives us hope that with everyone coming together to support the tournament and women's football it will lead to the growth of football in the country. The challenge is to leave behind a sustainable legacy that would focus on the holistic development of women's football and showcase to the Indian football fans how exciting women's football is," she said.
Roma said that while comparisons to 2017 are inevitable, the 2020 tournament has its own individual targets and benchmarks. "The benchmark is for every Indian to prove that they believe in the spirit of equality and fairness. They give the same love and support to the girls in 2020 that they did for the first boys in 2017," she said.
"On our part, we will leave no stone unturned in making the first football World Cup for girls a grand success. For us this is a FIFA tournament and all processes would be identical and similar quality standards would be in place. I truly hope that people saw a glimpse of that through the emblem launch."
The tournament is slated to be held from November 2 to 21, 2020.