New Delhi, April 4: The FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup to be held in India in November was on Saturday postponed by football’s governing body due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic across the globe.
The women’s age group showpiece was to be held at five venues in the country –Kolkata, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai — from November 2-21.
The tournament was to be competed among 16 teams, with hosts India being automatic qualifiers. It was to be India’s maiden appearance in the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
The decision was taken by the FIFA-Confederations working group which was recently established by the Bureau of the FIFA Council to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The working group recommended the Bureau of FIFA Council to “postpone the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup Panama/Costa Rica 2020 – originally scheduled for August/September 2020 – and the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup India 2020 – originally scheduled for November 2020.”
“New dates will be identified,” FIFA said in a statement.
It was also decided “to create a sub-working group on the women’s international match calendar to consider potential changes to the calendar and dates of postponed FIFA final tournaments”.
The All India Football Federation said the postponement was on expected lines.
“Just like other sports events which were postponed due to this dreaded disease, it (postponement of U-17 World Cup) was to happen. We have to accept the decision,” AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das told PTI.
“The qualifying events in Europe and Africa and other confederations are yet to be held and so the decision was on expected lines.”
He said the tournament will most likely be held next year.
The working group of the world body which took the decision includes the FIFA administration and Secretary Generals and top executives from all confederations.
It unanimously approved a series of recommendations following its first meeting, which was organised via conference late on Friday.
While the tournament itself is five months away but only the qualifying event for Asia has been held so far from which from which Japan and North Korea have made the cut.
Five remaining qualifying events — that of Africa, Europe, Oceania, South America, and Central, North America and Caribbean — have not been held due to the global health crisis which has affected more than a million people.
Over 50,000 deaths have been caused by the deadly outbreak so far.
The official schedule of the tournament was announced in February and Navi Mumbai was to host the final.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) said it supported the decision though it was looking forward to host the tournament in November as scheduled.
“We agree that this has been made with the highest regard for public health, and the participating teams, host cities, staff and visiting fans, and keeps the best interests of everyone in mind,” the LOC said in a statement.
“For us at the moment, the primary concern is the health and well being of every stakeholder involved in the tournament. We don’t want to take any risk that is detrimental to our community before it is clear that there is no threat to people’s health due to this pandemic.”
The LOC said it will continue to provide full support to FIFA on all matters and look forward to hosting a successful tournament in the near future.
In other decisions, the working group recommended “to postpone all international matches due to be played during the upcoming June 2020 window; and to organise bilateral discussions with confederations concerning 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in order to finalise a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments”. (PTI)