Brazil’s legendary defensive rock Lucio says that the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup is giving Indian football a stage to become bigger.
Speaking to FIFA.com ahead of Brazil’s Round of 16 tie against Honduras, Lucio said, “My time in India was great. Indian people are full of admiration for footballers, especially Brazilian ones. They know the game has a great history in our country and how successful we’ve been. It was a wonderful experience for me to feel their heartfelt kindness.”
“First and foremost, I think the FIFA U-17 World Cup will provide Indian people with experience. It will give football a stage to become bigger and better known,” he added.
The 39-year-old last played for FC Goa of the Indian Super League (ISL) as a central defender.
When asked about the difference in sport’s culture in India as compared to football crazy nations like Brazil, Germany and Italy, Lucio said, “Football still has some catching up to do in India.”
“It still needs time and a lot of development work in order to continue to grow. The basics need to be worked on every day, so that the passion for the game can increase and be shared by the Indian people,” he added.
Hosts India ended their World Cup campaign after facing a 0-4 defeat against Ghana in their last fixture of the Group A at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. Earlier, they were defeated by the other two teams of the Group-USA and Colombia.
India were the lowest-ranked side in the tournament. This was their first-ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup at any age group.
Though the spirit and effort that the young Indian players put in during their three Group A matches made their compatriots proud, the quality of the opposition proved too much for the hosts, as they bowed out of the U-17 World Cup with three straight defeats.
However, despite India’s early exit from the tournament, fans are still turning up to the stadiums to watch and support other teams.
And this fact has been acknowledged by Javier Ceppi, Director of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 LOC.
“We have to remember this is the first FIFA World Cup hosted in India, but there has been improvement on each match-day regarding every single aspect of operations. There have been historic crowds, a potential record for a youth tournament. We have crossed the 800,000 spectator mark, already almost double what Chile 2015 had for that complete tournament. The average per match is almost 23,000, and the Indian matches had 49,000 average spectators, which is huge,” Ceppi said.
“Credit to the Indian people. It has been a great World Cup. The football atmosphere has been really fantastic. On your way to the stadium you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re going to Old Trafford or the Bernabeu or a place like that,” said Branimir Ujevic, FIFA Head of Coaching and Player Development.