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October 6, 2017: India play their first-ever FIFA World Cup match in New Delhi tonight!

Sadly I won’t be in New Delhi tonight to cheer on the Indian Under-17 boys in their opening match against the United State of America of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup being hosted by India. Physically I won’t be there, but somehow like many others I will be there to support the boys in what will be a historic night for Indian football.

And to call it historic would make it look smaller than it is in reality. It is a huge milestone for Indian football to be allowed by world governing body FIFA to host and organise one of its age grooup FIFA World Cup’s.

I have now been involved in Indian football for close to 20 years in many different roles, be it in administration, management, media, etc. I have seen it from close quarters and far away, and it always was a dream of mine to see India play on the global stage against the big football playing nations. That will be fulfilled tonight!

Today many of the great experiences I have had with the Indian national teams come to my mind as the India U-17s get ready for their match against the USA. Just a list of some of my experiences over the years…

– being part of Team India, when the then India senior team used to come to England for their Summer Tours in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Be it makes against Fulham FC or West Bromwich Albion in 2000, international matches against Bangladesh (2000) and Jamaica (2002) or lower English league sides.

– short notice deciding to fly as a fan down to Bangalore to watch the India vs United Arab Emirates match on April 8, 2001 in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which India went on to win sensationally 1-0.

– working with the then India Under-17s coached by Islam Akhmedov and organising a camp for them in Germany ahead of the AFC U-17 Championship.

– working for the IFA in organising the India vs Japan match in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Saltlake Stadium in Kolkata.

– being in Qatar to report for the Deutsche Welle while India played for the first-time in 27 years at the AFC Asian Cup. Great matches in the group of death against Australia, Bahrain and South Korea.

– having being in July 2017 at the group stage draw of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup

These are some of my memories with the Indian national football teams

Now we are a little over an hour away and I hope, the boys enjoy the occasion, don’t get scared or bogged down by the pressure, whatever happens, you will make us all proud!

#BackTheBlue #FootballTakesOver #TeamIndia #IndiaU17 #2017FIFAU17WC

About Arunava Chaudhuri

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