Some of the best junior teams in the world will converge in South Africa for the 2017 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament at the Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto from 20-25 March where they will take on top local talent in a battle for the prestigious trophy.
Now firmly established as a popular fixture on the global junior football calendar, the event is in its ninth year and will once again give us a glimpse into the future stars of the world game.
Organised by Global Sports International, in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government, the tournament will feature five local sides and seven top teams from around the world.
The field contains three former winners – defending champions Atletico Madrid (Spain), Club Tijuana (Mexico) and Torino FC (Italy).
Joining them among the international contingent are FC Brugge (Belgium), Spartak Moscow (Russia), a Nigerian Professional Football League Under-17 All Stars side, and a team from the Football School of India.
They will take on the five sides who qualified through the Future Champions Gauteng Cup that was played on Saturday, March 11 – Orlando Pirates, BidVest Wits, University of Pretoria, Mamelodi Sundowns and a selection from the SAFA Tshwane region.
The teams will be drawn into four groups each containing three sides and will play each other in a round-robin format, with the top teams in each pool advancing to the semi-finals. The remaining eight sides will play-off to determine positions five to 12.
“We are truly excited to get this opportunity once again to not only catch a glimpse of future internationals from around the world, but also from our very own Province. We welcome our international guests and trust that they will enjoy their stay, both on and off the pitch, and that the soccer provides rich entertainment for fans. The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament allows us to once again show that our Province is the enabler of sporting excellence!” says Ms Faith Mazibuko, MEC for Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
The Gauteng Department of Education’s Deputy Director General, Vuyani Mpofu says this is a great opportunity for the players from all teams to interact and learn about their different cultures.
“The interaction of these young players with learners from all around the world has significant educational value and we urge all the teams to come together in the spirit of friendship and comradery. There is much to learn from each other and we look forward to welcoming our guests and sharing with them what makes South Africa such a special country,” Mr Mpofu said.
Tournament Director, Ray Whelan, added: “The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament is now very well established on the football calendar and the standard of football has been very high. We are looking forward to taking that to a new level in this, our ninth year.
“I must give credit to the Gauteng Province for the way they make the teams feel so welcome, which is why there is such a desire from teams to come back year after year. It is amazing to see how this event has grown since 2009 and we look forward to reaching even greater heights in the future” concluded Whelan.
Gauteng Tourism Authority will also play a part in the event as they help entertain the players and expose them to the Province’s rich history.
“The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament provides the players with an opportunity to explore what Gauteng and South Africa have to offer beyond the football fields. We want them to experience the highlights of the dynamic and vibrant Gauteng City Region. The players have certainly shown great appreciation for this in the past,” said Nonnie Kubeka, Head of the Gauteng Convention Bureau and Events.
The South African Football Association has been a staunch supporter of the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament over the years and will have one of their own sides in the 2017 competition, after the qualification of the SAFA Tshwane region.
“The South African Football Association’s key objective is to develop football in the country so we are delighted to partner with any event that provides this platform. The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament has proved to be a huge success since it was first played in 2009 and a testament to this is the quality of the teams that return year after year to compete,” said SAFA Technical Director, Neil Tovey.
“It is always fascinating for our local teams to test their qualities against sides from around the world who can bring a different style and mentality to the game. Football is a mental game as well as physical one and to be able to learn from other footballing cultures is a huge bonus for our youngsters. But at the same time, we believe we have something to showcase to the rest of the world as well. I also think our visitors can learn something from us too.”
This year’s Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament will also be supported by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, the Premier Soccer League, Love Life, Virgin Mobile, Levati, Nike, MotorDeal, Clinix Health, Debonairs Pizza, Haagen-Dazs, Spain’s LaLiga and SCORE Energy drinks.