It has been announced today that Sunderland AFC‘s U17 team will take on South African football club partners, Bidvest Wits U17’s, in the group stage of the Future Champions Gauteng Cup in Soweto.
This will be the second year running that the young Black Cats have competed in the prestigious tournament, which is highly regarded as one of the most competitive youth tournaments in world football.
Competing against Sunderland AFC and Bidvest Wits in the group stages will be Tuks FC from South Africa.
SAFC and Bidvest Wits have enjoyed a fruitful relationship since agreeing to a football partnership in 2013, with SAFC’s Head of International Football Development, Graham Robinson, working with the Clever Boys’ coaches on a regular basis, sharing coaching and business expertise.
Graham said: “We work very closely with Bidvest Wits for the benefit of both clubs and often share ideas, so it will be an exciting encounter when the two youth teams come up against each other at the tournament.
“The boys at Wits are a very forward thinking team, they are quick and physically very good, similar to Sunderland, so I’m sure it will be a great spectacle for viewers.
“The tournament is very beneficial as the team are competing against different clubs from across Africa and the globe, so they’ll be coming up against different styles, techniques and even languages.
“It is also being filmed so there are pressures with that, there is pre-match build up and post-match interviews, so the tournament is very beneficial as it prepares them well for the future and the demands of a professional footballer.”
Speaking about the experience of last year’s tournament, Graham added: “A lot of the players are going there a year wiser, last year they did very well but certain games over roared them.
“They were playing under different conditions, they had to deal with the heat and lively crowds, so the atmosphere was very different, and this year won’t be as much of a shock to the system.”
Sunderland AFC will kick-off their campaign on Monday 23 March against Group B side Orlando Pirates.
Elliott Dickman’s side will then take on Tuks FC and Bidvest Wits, with the top side in each group progressing to the semi-final stage and the remaining teams entering a play-off round to determine places five to 12.