JILLIANE ANGELINE /AIPS Young Reporter/US in AMMAN: A FIFA official has hailed the long-term impact of the infrastructure upgrades to the stadiums as the first female World Cup in the Middle East is about to start.

Tatjana Haenni, the world football federaion’s director of women’s competitions, said, “I wouldn’t say it was only being done for FIFA or for this tournament because I really think it’s a legacy for the future.  It helps the men’s professional teams you’re having.  It helps the visiting teams you’re welcoming in the future.”

Haenni, addressing a tournament launch press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, added: “It helps hosting more tournaments if you like, if this country wants to host more tournaments.  But I would call it, it’s up to a top international standard right now.”

Amman’s Mayor Aqel Biltaji told AIPS media at the Fan Zone Wednesday that the facilities cost about 35m Jordanian dinar (US$49.3m).

Haenni said these innovations, upgrades and renovations are part of FIFA requirements to host a tournament.

Matches will be played in the Amman International Stadium, the King Abdullah II International Stadium in Amman, the Al Hassan International Stadium in Irbid and the Prince Mohammed International Stadium in Al Zarqa.  The stadium in Al Zarqa has an artificial surface, turf, while the other three stadiums are composed of natural grass.

As host country for this U17 World Cup, it was essential to provide top modern facilities, according to Samar Nassar, ceo of the Jordan 2016 Local Organizing Committee.

She said: “One of the reasons Jordan bid for this mega sporting event is to revamp its infrastructure.  In 1968 when the Sports City was built, it was an icon in the Middle East.  In 1999, when Jordan hosted the Pan-Arab Games, the majority of facilities we use today and I used as an athlete were due to the 1999 Pan-Arab Games.”

FIFA and national sponsors assisted in subsidizing the budgets to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, according to Nassar.  She also credited the Greater Amman Municipality as well as the Ministry of Youth for their help.  Nassar called companies Manaseer and Zain pillars for the tournament.

Jordan will be host to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2018 with the improved facilities.

But Nassar also touched upon an even deeper goal in bringing the U17 World Cup to the Middle East city, saying: “The impact of the tournament there’s a sporting impact, there’s definitely a very strong social impact and message to the world and the impact on our infrastructure.”