New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today graced Indian football’s historic moment when he greeted players of both the teams before the kick off India’s opening FIFA U-17 World Cup match against USA, here.
Modi, who arrived at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium after the first match of the day between Ghana and Colombia, went out from the VIP dais to the playing pitch and shook hands with both the teams.
The Indian team who today made history by becoming the first football players from the country to play in a FIFA World Cup.
The Prime Minister stood on the ground when the national anthems of India and US were sung.
Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, FIFA Secetrary General Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa and All India Football Federation chief Praful Patel accompanied him.
This is the first FIFA tournament the country is hosting.
The Prime Minister also honoured some of India’s footballing legends, which include P K Banerjee (who came in a wheelchair), Syed Nayeemuddin, I M Vijayan, Bhaichuing Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Bembem Devi.
Modi presented all of them with a shawl and a momento. Chuni Goswami’s name was also mentioned but he did not attend the function.
Earlier, the government had planned to stage an opening ceremony before the kick-off but the world football governing body had expressed displeasure at the move.
The Prime Minister has been taking a lot of interest in the hosting of this U-17 World Cup and has been telling the countrymen in his popular radio programme ‘man ki baat’ about how this prestigious tournament can raise the profile of the sport in this country.
The central government has also spent more than Rs 120 crore for this showpiece event.