Football legends welcome U-17 World Cup trophy in city
Kolkata: The FIFA Under-17 Football World Cup will motivate young footballers in the state and Friday marked the start of the frenzy with the trophy being showcased in the city.
Aroop Biswas, the state Youth Services and Sports minister, said: "Today (Friday) is a day of pride for Bengal when the trophy has been brought to the city. The international tournament is going to motivate the young players in the state."
He further said that Swami Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Kirangan is the best stadium in the country where the World Cup matches will be held.
The 'City of Joy' on Friday accorded a unique welcome to the FIFA U-17 World Cup trophy with traditional rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal sharing the dais.
The World Cup final host city saw former greats like P K Banerjee, Shyam Thapa, Subrata Bhattacharya, Gautam Sarkar, Bidesh Bose, Prasun Banerjee, Shanti Mullick attend the trophy unveiling at the Kshudiram Anushilan Kendra.
As per its three-day sojourn in Kolkata, FIFA winner's trophy will be on display at the Mission XI Million festival at South City International School on Saturday.
The city's popular tourist spot Eco Park will host the silverware on September 3 before it heads to Mumbai, Goa and Kochi.
The World Cup theme song launch will be in the Mumbai leg of the trophy tour on September 6 when five FIFA legends — Fernando Morientes, Marcel Desailly, Jorge Campos, Emmanuel Amuneke and Carlos Valderrama — take part in an exhibition match to kick off the one-month countdown.
80-year-old legendary Indian footballer P K Banerjee is excited about the build-up.
"Wish we had the same kind of opportunity in our days," he said after West Bengal Sports minister Aroop Biswas unveiled the trophy.
"We could not play in the World Cup but now I cannot wait to watch the matches."
A recipient of the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004 (greatest Indian footballer of the 20th century), Banerjee urged the AIFF to take forward the movement. "I hope this is the start," Banerjee said.
The Indian U-17 team that will compete has been given the best of facilities and exposure trips and Banerjee wanted the AIFF to increase the pool.
Former India captain Shanti Mullick, the first Arjuna awardee in women's football, termed this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I could not touch the Trophy but it's a different feeling," she said. "The AIFF must ensure to bring in young boys and girls to watch the matches. Kids must watch."
Shanti further stressed on the importance of utilising the atmosphere post World Cup.
"The stadium is totally transformed but we must ensure that termites don't eat into it after the event is over.
"We have seen what happens to big venues after an event. We make best use of the infrastructure and support the youngsters," she added.
It may be mentioned that the FIFA U-17 World Cup official anthem written by Amitabh Bhattacharya and composed by Pritam will be launched on September 6 and it will be on air from September 6 on radio and television.