KOLKATA: The Under 17 World Cup final on Saturday between England and Spain will break an attendance record for the tournament and has convinced the Indian hosts to step up their bid for the Under 20 World Cup in 2019.
Organisers said Thursday they expect a sellout crowd of 67,000 in Kolkata and hope the third place playoff earlier in the day will also be packed.
The tournament has already drawn 1.22 million spectators and only needs a few thousand to beat the aggregate 1.23 million who went to the precursor under 16 World Cup in China in 1985.
Two full houses at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday could see India overtake the 1.3 million who went to the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia in 2011.
The tournament has been marked by big attendances even though India lost all three of their group games.
All India Football Federation president Praful Patel said he was “extremely delighted” at the public turnout.
“We have bid for the Under 20 World Cup to be held in 2019,” Patel told reporters. He is to raise the bid at a meeting of FIFA’s executive council in Kolkata on Friday.
A decision on the 2019 tournament is expected to be made in early 2018. FIFA has not yet announced whether there are other contenders.
Patel refused to comment on a police complaint against him and tournament director Javier Ceppi made by a youth organisation after Wednesday’s semi-final between England and Brazil was moved from Guwahati to Kolkata.
The match was moved because FIFA said the pitch was too dangerous after several days of heavy rain in the northern city.
The complaint by a group in Guwahati also alleged misappropriation of money generated from the U17 World Cup matches in the city.
Patel said the complaint “does not merit comment.”