LU YUCHEN / AIPS Young Reporters* /BAKU: As the curtain falls on the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan, FIFA officials have hailed the tournament as “the best yet.”
Senior organising committee member Anastasia Tsichlas said: “From the moment I arrived, I felt the vibe of the World Cup. I was so impressed with Baku but more importantly, the people. Generally speaking, everything was wonderful. We had some great games.
“If you compare with previous Under-17 World Cups, this one is definitely the best I’ve watched.”
North Korea face their earlier Group B rivals France in the final after European champions Germany take on their own Group D opponents Ghana in the third place play-off.
Azerbaijan is located in the eastern part of the South Caucasus, on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. So this is not only the first time that the U-17 Women’s World Cup has taken place in Europe but the first time any FIFA women’s competition has been held in an Islamic country.
Hosts Azerbaijan, their team created virtually from scratch in less than two years, lost all three of their Group A games but that was ascribed to a lack of development and experience.
Tatjana Haenni, FIFA’s head of women’s competitions, was more than satisfied with the tournament.
She said: “It’s nice to see new teams coming to finals for the first time, such as Gambia and Uruguay. We also see a high standard of top teams in terms of quality, such as Ghana.
“ForAzerbaijan, it was a new event for them and it’s been wonderful with infrastructure and creation of women’s teams and leagues. I really hope this will leave a legacy for the country.”
In the two years after securing the event, built three new stadia, eight training stadiums and their U-17 women’s football team from scratch. The only minor snag was the state of the pitch in Lankaran which saw its quarter-final tie shifted to Baku.
Haenni added: “This was really the only critical element that we’ve had so far. Ticketing was no issue at all [and] accommodation was up to the best standards.
“Transportation is a key element in such an event and that was incredible too. Traffic jams in a city are something that you cannot get around so we had to live with it and it was well done.”
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** AIPS, the international sports media association, has been running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with the co-operation of FIFA and supported by the Azeri Ministry of Youth & Sport
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