In a shocking revelation, it has come out that India has away 27,000 tickets free for the opening two games in New Delhi to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands. The move was a bid to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands when Indian PM Modi kicked off the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The news has emerged after an official claimed that the organizers were unsure whether the event would draw attention.
The opening of the event was similar to the 2010 Commonwealth Games where thousands of students packed the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. The organizers have been facing the difficult task of ticket sales in this edition of the youth World Cup. The most disappointing has been the fact that ticket sales have been low even for games featuring top teams like Brazil, Spain, Germany, and England.
The opening day turned out to be a dull day for Indians. Not only was it difficult for organizers to pack the stadium but the home team lost to the United States 3-0. The stadium has a capacity of 56,000 but even with PM Modi in the audience, there were only 41,000 odd spectators. Most of them were kids from schools who had free passes. According to an organizing committee member, 27,000 free tickets were given to schools all around the city. Pick up and drop facility was also given to kids. The move was made to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands with PM Modi present.
The opening game was much more exciting as two-time champions Ghana edged past Colombia 1-0. The second game was the one with expectations but it turned out to be disappointing for Indians as the home team lost 3-0. The FIFA officials were convinced with the good atmosphere and indicated the tournament will be success pointing to more exciting games in the later half.
The tournament which concludes on October 28 has been under controversy since day one. Apart from poor attendance, there were fears of India’s pollution. FIFA had earlier cited serious health risks to players and spectators during the mega event. The twenty-four nation event will take place at venues in six Indian cities namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, Guwahati, and Kolkata. Officials fear that the festival of Diwali will spike the pollution level in the country due to huge fireworks.