This World Cup has shown us the right road to be on
The U-17 World cup is over. To many of us who covered the journey from the beginning it was clear that the best was kept for the last and that football is not about entertainment but about ninety minutes on the field. That was the magic for me; a magic that will linger on for many, many years.
As the Cup came to a close the discussion in Goa centered on the fan response. There have been many arguments put forward to explain the lack of attendance at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda and there will be more to follow. Let us get out of explanations and get to a few facts.
I am sharing these facts because I hope they will help us realise or understand the reasons behind fan behaviour in Goa.
From May 16 to September 6 Goa recorded a sale of 4403 tickets. The figures I am mentioning include the figures of total sales and not individual or daily match sales. Box office sales in Goa started on September 7 and on the first day 120 tickets were purchased and 111 tickets were purchased online taking the total sale of tickets for the day to 231.
The Box office sales on September 8 was 533 and the highest sale on box office tickets – till the date I was given access to go through the figures- was 579 . This happened on September 9. Thereafter , box office sales floated between the hundred; slipped to two figure digits and ascended as the tournament dates neared. But, there never seem to be an alarm over shortage of tickets, except for the day Brazil was playing. Till then, even the quarterfinal tickets were easily available.
From the day box office tickets started till around the end of the month only 4583 tickets were picked up and the online sales that had started on May 16 had touched around 7600.
Now for some quick maths: Let us assume that 12,000 tickets were up for sale from the 16,000 odd available. Let us assume the remaining were for VIP’s and FIFA advertisers or let us assume that only 10,000 tickets were up for sale for each match. That makes it 90,000 tickets available and only around 12000 sold just a few days before the world Cup could kick off in Goa. That makes it 13.3 % of tickets sold a few days before the start of the tournament.
There was a gentleman who was nearing his eighties who went to purchase tickets one day. After standing in the line for about an hour, he was informed that the tickets for that particular match were sold out- it was the opening match when Germany played Costa Rica. There were plenty of tickets available but the old man could not watch the game live. Inside, the VIP stands were nearly empty as well as most other stands and the situation continued in this way till the day Brazil played.
The AIFF Technical Director and many people who tag football on them were seen in the VIP area only from the Brazil match onwards and with them were many others started making their presence felt. Maybe, they were elsewhere and this in no way should be construed as sledge hammering. But, the truth is that the VIP area had a look of dignity only from the day Brazil played.
Why just Brazil? Was it to show that we understand football? Or is it that many think football is a game to be understood and not enjoyed? Does watching Brazil give us intellectual propriety rights? Or were we to believe that only Brazil could be preparing to produce the next Messi or Neymar? There was a lot to be learned before the Brazilians played. Iran had beautiful lessons on grass root development and it is from them that we should pick ideas. This is one face of hypocrisy.
All I know is that the football on all days was great. Those who missed ; missed not just something ;but missed a lot .Because , the football at the U-17 World Cup was what football is all about- pure madness where it really does not matter who plays but how the game is played and the just concluded World Cup gave us all of it.
For a person who has been watching football for over thirty years, my thirst for quality was quenched. The U-17 spectacle was a good mirror to the road world football is on. We are on dirt tracks. Yet, the U-17 World Cup has shown the road we need to be on.