U-17 World Cup diaries: Sorry, cabbie, but Neymar isn't here
The opening day of the U-17 World Cup in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium might have seen a sizeable turnout in the stands, but for the average resident of Delhi, it barely made a splash in terms of interest.
Taxi drivers while dropping you off at the Nehru Stadium expressed surprise when told that there was a major sporting event around the corner. Who could blame them, considering the lack of signage and billboards announcing the World Cup, barring one tiny banner advertising India's match dates right by the stadium periphery. The evening after the opening day's matches, the driver was actually cursing whatever was going on inside the stadium, as the frequent bookings meant his operating radius for the evening was a fairly short one. He didn't seem like a football fan.
Guwahati, in contrast, had loads of reminders of the event, right from the parking lot of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport. The state government has done well to remind you that two days after the first World Cup games, there's also an India-Australia T20 international at the Nehru Stadium. One's immediate thought was how that might impact training schedules, with the multipurpose cricket ground also one of the four football training pitches.
The driver in Guwahati is better tuned to football in general, and Indian football in particular. He missed India's game on the opening day, because he was busy attending a niece's birthday party. He is keen on making it to the semi-finals on October 25, although the last bit of our conversation might make him think twice.
"Woh Brazil wala ladka khel raha hai? Jisko pichle World Cup mein peeth pe chot lag gaya tha (Is that kid from Brazil who hurt his back at the last World Cup going to play)?"
I felt quite sorry informing him that Neymar became ineligible for the U-17 World Cup after his maiden appearance in Nigeria eight years ago.