MUMBAI: India’s football fans thronged to catch a glimpse of the Official Winner’s Trophy of the FIFA U-17 World Cup as the silverware traversed over 16,000 km across the length and breadth of the nation, making pit stops in all six Host Cities of the country’s first FIFA tournament, which will kick off on 6 October.
More than a million Indians from all walks of life, most of them united by their love for the beautiful game, came together to get up close to the coveted trophy that will be lifted by the winning captain at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on 28 October.
The Trophy Experience kicked off at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the capital New Delhi on 19 August and moved on to Guwahati, Kolkata, Mumbai and Goa before drawing to a close in a carnival-like atmosphere at the scenic Vasco da Gama square in Fort Kochi.
Across the different cities, states, cultures and landscapes, the passionate football fans of India gave a warm welcome to the trophy, which was displayed in various parts of the Host Cities, giving them ample opportunity to take pictures and selfies with the trophy. Kheleo, the Official Mascot for the tournament, was a hit at all venues, as was the catchy Official Song of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 – Kar Ke Dikhla De Goal – as India continued to build up to its first-ever appearance in a FIFA tournament.
Among the highlights of the Trophy Experience was the FIFA Legends match on 6 September, which was held to mark the one-month countdown to the tournament. The match saw icons such as Carlos Valderrama, Fernando Morientes, Marcel Desailly, Jorge Campos and Emmanuel Amuneke play a fiercely fought five-a-side game against a team of Indian stars including Indian women’s team captain Ngangom Bala Devi and Arjuna awardee Oinam Bembem Devi.
From the lush green hills of Guwahati in the north-east to the beaches of Goa and the hustle of financial hub Mumbai in the west, the unique Trophy Experience received crucial support from state governments and FIFA’s Commercial Affiliates including Coca-Cola and adidas, as well as the tournament’s National Supporters Bank of Baroda, Coal India and Hero MotoCorp. Along the way, many dignitaries, former and current footballers, politicians and celebrities also paid the trophy a visit, helping to engage even more fans.
The six-week long Trophy Experience played an important role in driving enthusiasm and anticipation among Indians, who will now look to carry the festive fervour through into the tournament, which will see young stars from the 24 qualified nations do battle to become champions.