I’ve never seen so many fans packed into the stadiums at a FIFA U-17 World Cup


With 48 of its 52 matches already complete, the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 is now heading into the home straight. Brazil, England, Mali and Spain are the four teams still in the hunt for the trophy – but the tournament’s referees are also preparing intensively for the final few games.


“We are very happy with the performances and we’re hoping that this will continue in the next few matches,” said Massimo Busacca, Head of the FIFA Refereeing Department, in Kolkata on Monday.

“We’re also very pleased that none of our referees or assistants have been injured. Rather than being down to luck, this is thanks to the training we’ve been doing every day for the last three weeks,” he continued. “The tournament is very fast-paced, as the players are all at the highest level, so our officials need to be fit too. Yet, this still isn’t enough. The job isn’t just a matter of running, but also about working hard to understand each team’s tactics. Referees need to anticipate what will happen before the ball is played. Having said all that, mistakes can always happen. We’re human after all.”

A new chapter in the tournament’s history began on the final day of group matches when Switzerland’s Esther Staubli became the first female referee at India 2017 for the match between Japan and New Caledonia.

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“Since joining FIFA in 2011, I have always said that we need to work together and exchange ideas,” Busacca explained. “While female refereeing has developed tremendously, these officials understandably sometimes lack experience. Being involved here in India is a big step forward. We have shown that the door is open, and both sides have benefited hugely from the experience. We need to keep giving these referees every opportunity to improve.”

On India as World Cup hosts:

“I’ve never seen so many fans packed into the stadiums at a FIFA U-17 World Cup. That’s a wonderful thing. Football is in India’s blood, just like cricket. The national team played well, even if the results didn’t reflect that. There’s no doubt that this will stand them in good stead for the future. The country has shown that it can organise a World Cup, so we thank India for that and for having the opportunity to enjoy football here.”

On refereeing in India:

“A group of Indian match officials spent a week here to gain an insight into how we work, and were grateful for the experience. It’s now up to them to make the best of it. They know what they need to do and certainly have the motivation to do it. Although they currently lack experience, that will soon change. I’m sure that an Indian referee will be able to take part in a FIFA tournament in a few years’ time.”

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