x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Younger fans are key to success at Fifa Under 17 World Cup

Early-bird venue packages have been on sale since late June, as the Emirates prepares to host the three-week tournament beginning on October 17, writes John McAuley.

Football's governing body envisage
Football's governing body envisage "a good surge" in ticket sales once the draw is made, although they placed particular emphasis on the role 12 to 17 year olds will play in supporting the competition from the stands like they did during the 2009 Club World Cup in the UAE. Stephen Lock / The National

ABU DHABI // Fifa believe that organisers of the Under 17 World Cup, to take place later this year in the UAE, must target young football fans to ensure the event proves a box-office success.

Early-bird venue packages have been on sale since late June, as the Emirates prepares to host the three-week tournament beginning on October 17, when 24 international teams will compete across 52 matches.

However, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) expects interest to spike following Monday's official tournament draw in Abu Dhabi, when the entrants discover who they play in the group stages and which of the six venues will host their matches.

This week, Fifa inspected each of the stadiums, spanning Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, and reported they were pleased with the infrastructure in place to house the biennial event.

Football's governing body envisage "a good surge" in ticket sales once the draw is made, although they placed particular emphasis on the role 12 to 17 year olds will play in supporting the competition from the stands.

"We need to get young footballers excited about this event and we're already doing things to make that connection," said Fifa's director of competitions, Inaki Alvarez. "We need to connect with them on a personal level, because those competing are their peers. They'll be able to see the best players in the world, who are just like them.

"Players come, they bring their families and friends, and this is what we need. We're looking for a celebration of football and a celebration of youth."

To raise awareness for the tournament, the LOC has run a number of initiatives on social media, and plans to ramp up its campaign from Monday onward. The event has already attracted significant interest from outside the Emirates, with 199 countries confirmed to broadcast the action live.

TICKET INFORMATION Fans can take advantage of early bird venue ticket packages by visiting www.fifa.com/u17worldcup and through calling 800 STADIA (800 782342) toll-free from inside the UAE (+97156 2255927 from outside the UAE).

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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