Monday, Oct 23, 2017 | Last Update : 09:37 AM IST

U-17 World Cup sees low turnout

THE ASIAN AGE. | KABEER KHAN
Published : Oct 8, 2017, 12:43 am IST
Updated : Oct 8, 2017, 12:44 am IST

While the unexpected rain caused a few hiccups at the D.Y. Patil stadium on the opening day of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Friday.

Paraguay’s Antonio Galeano celebrates after scoring a goal against Mali
 Paraguay’s Antonio Galeano celebrates after scoring a goal against Mali

The much-awaited FIFA Under-17 World Cup kicked off at the revamped D.Y. Patil Stadium on a stormy Friday evening with clouds looming over the stadium. The rains played a part in giving the players a much-needed respite, but the pitch started wearing off as the heavens opened up. The attendance was drastically lower than expected, as the fans decided to stay at home to avoid the Mumbai rains.

The first game started at 5 pm under floodlights because of the gloomy conditions caused by the dark clouds. An hour before the opening match between New Zealand and Turkey, winds started blowing fast. At one point, they got severe enough to make dugouts turn turtle on a couple of occasions. By the time the start whistle was blown, the heavens had already opened up. However the game started on time even as the spectators stayed away.

Turkey scored in the first half which was nullified by New Zealand skipper Max Mata in the second half. Mata was red-carded in injury time though, and will miss the next game. This has clearly disappointed their camp, on an otherwise good day for them. The Kiwis, though, enjoyed the rains, said the coach Danny Hay after the match. “We are used to the rains back in New Zealand; it rains over there this time of the year and the weather cooled down a little,” said the  Kiwis’ coach. 

There were a few moments apart from the goals and anxious chances created by the footballers which amused the fans.

Man’s best friend
There were 22 players on the pitch, but the first match saw a surprise entry from a stray dog, who made an appearance when the game was tied at 1-1 in the second half. It dodged the security twice, giving the fans a chance to have a silly laugh. The match was stopped briefly till the dog decided to leave the pitch with the security standing no chance of stopping him. 

Minimal attendance
The expected attendance for the game was 22,000 but only 9,000-odd football enthusiasts showed up for the first game, with most of the stands going empty. The organisers believe that it was the weather that worried the ticket holders. The second game between Paraguay and Mali ended up 3-2, with the South American side winning the enthralling competition. The Paraguayan coach applauded the fans, even as the turnout was low. “The crowd was great, (but) they were behind us when we needed them and I think that is one reason why we have won the game,” said Gustavo Morinigo.  

The awkward celebration
The runners-up from the 2015 edition, Mali, conceded a penalty after a hand ball, which allowed the Les Aiglonnets to take the spot-kick. It proved to be the winner eventually. Alan Rodriguez struck a powerful shot but his celebration could have landed him some trouble. Rodriguez went sliding on his knees to celebrate his goal but a layer of turf came off and he landed on his shoulder. Thankfully for the Paraguayans, the goal scorer escaped unhurt. 

The pitch
The unexpected rains on Friday took the city by surprise yet again as well as the pitch of the Navi Mumbai Stadium. There were a few incidents in the first game, where the players slipped, allowing their oppositions to stride into attack. However in the second match, the pitch was wearing off even worse and so were the thoughts of Morinigo. 
“The field was tough to play at after the first half, the rains made it hard for the players as they were getting tired quicker. I am glad that no one got injured,” said the Paraguayan gaffer.

The D.Y. Patil stadium will host six more games including the semi-final. Turkey, who settled for a point, will play Mali and group leaders Paraguay will play dark horses New Zealand on Monday.

Tags: fifa under-17 world cup, max mata, danny hay