Describing the preparations at one of the southernmost venue in the country, FIFA Head of Tournaments, Jaime Yarza explained, “I was here last February and, to be honest, while some work has happened, it’s by far not enough, which is a matter of deep concern. The State Government must get involved, give us an unrestricted support and get the urgency of the situation, because there are a lot of changes that need to be made to the stadium. The works need to be done by 15th May and given the large amount of renovation that must happen, works have to go on full speed. Also, the situation of the stores is quite concerning: from a Security standpoint they cannot be opened during the Tournament. There are stores with fuel tanks, which is a grave safety and security concern, so their equipment also need to be taken out. Overall, work needs to happen, and State Government needs to make them happen fast.”
Speaking at the Press Conference after the inspection, Tournament Director of the LOC, Javier Ceppi said, “Over the past month, there has been a decent amount of work that has been done in Kochi. Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that almost no work could happen last year while ISL was happening and that has had an impact on the renovation timelines for the JNI Stadium, which is lost time that we need to recover fast. We are confident that the state government will honour its commitment and that pending infrastructure work will be completed as soon as possible”.
Football fans in Kerala have a massive reputation nationwide and acknowledging the same, he added, “The enthusiasm that we have seen from football fans in Kerala about hosting the event is remarkable and we hope that they all turn up for the World Cup matches in October”.
Also present at the event were A. P. M. Mohammad Hanish – IAS & Nodal Officer for Government of Kerala; KMI Mather – Vice President – AIFF; Mr. T. P. Dasan, President – Kerala State Sports Council; Mr. A. C. Moideen, Minister for Industries, Sports and Youth Affairs – Government of Kerala and Joy Bhattacharjya – Project Director, LOC.
The delegation will travel to Navi Mumbai and Guwahati next before it concludes its inspection visit in Kolkata.