FIFA mulls 'solutions' as coronavirus cloud looms over women's U-17 World Cup
The fate of the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, scheduled to be hosted across five cities in India between November 2 and November 21, hangs in the balance following the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"FIFA is currently monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19 in India in close collaboration with the Local Organising Committee (LOC), as well as other key stakeholders including the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and relevant authorities in the country," a FIFA spokesperson told ESPN.
At the organisational level, the LOC is prepared for the dates to remain the same, though FIFA have mentioned that with "public safety and health" in mind, they are already working with the LOC to find "alternative solutions to upcoming events that were planned in India in the lead up to the tournament."
The biggest impediment, besides the lockdown in most countries around the world to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, has been the postponement of several sporting events, which include a host of qualifying tournaments to identify the 15 teams that would join hosts India in the tournament.
While the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), home to the only qualifiers so far in Japan and North Korea -- wrapped up their qualifying tournament in 2019 itself, four of the remaining five confederations haven't been able to fix dates for the qualifying tournament yet.
CONCACAF, which looks after football in the Caribbean, central and North America, announced a postponement of their qualifiers from April 18 to May 3 last week. CONMEBOL (South America) qualifiers are anyway scheduled for August-September this year, while both OFC (Oceania) and UEFA (Europe) have announced postponements of their scheduled dates of qualifiers, with OFC having already pushed the qualifying tournament dates from late 2019 due to a measles outbreak in the Pacific region.
Only Africa (CAF) have their qualifying schedule on track, with South Africa, Morocco, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria set to play off for three places in the first part of May. ESPN understands that FIFA are working closely with all the confederations that have yet to complete qualification for the best dates and solutions to the qualifying process.
India are playing their maiden U-17 Women's World Cup, also making it the country's debut in a FIFA tournament in the women's game. Under Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby they played the final of a three-nation tournament held in Mumbai last December, beating Thailand but losing two matches against Sweden. They played their last matches on February 16 and 19 in Turkey, holding a Romanian team to a 3-3 draw before beating them 1-0 in the second game. They haven't had any competitive football since then, owing to the postponement of sports events around the world.