FIFA World Cup winner Christian Karembeu and Liga BBVA Ambassador will be on the sidelines during the 2016 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament to be played at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto, from March 14-19.
The former France international midfielder is a guest of tournament supporters, the Spanish LaLiga, and will run his eye over some of the best young talent in the world in the Under-17 age-group. Karembeu played 53 times for France and was a vital member of the side that clinched the World Cup in 1998. He also spent three years playing for Real Madrid in LaLiga, during which time he won the UEFA Champions League twice as well as played in Italy, England and Greece, and retired in 2006 while at French Ligue 1 side Bastia.
Karembeu will give his expert opinion to the youngsters involved in Future Champions Gauteng tournament and be available for media interviews. He will also be an important part of the Closing Ceremony giving the new La Liga Fair Play Award. This award will be given to the team that really excels beyond football and borders through its sportsmanship spirit.
The support of LaLiga to the Future Champions project is just one of the latest examples of their internationalization strategy and commitment to the development of football all over the world. Antonio Barradas, Head of LaLiga in Africa expresses the satisfaction to be involved with this program: “We’re here in South Africa to stay. We’re just getting started and want to promote grassroots football as an educational tool. The Future Champions project is an excellent opportunity for local players and we’re very delighted to be a part of this initiative this year. Our focus is to get things done not only in South Africa but in the whole continent to assist the development of football and increase our engagement with our fans in Africa. This beautiful continent offers a large variety of opportunities so we hope that we can strengthen the ties between Spain and Africa.”
Tournament Director Ray Whelan said: “I regard the Spanish La Liga as one of the most prestigious leagues in the world and they have a vision of spreading their football message across the globe. Television is one medium for that, but they are also looking at a more grassroots means of promoting their brand and have chosen to partner with the Future Champions Gauteng for this year and hopefully beyond.
“They have facilitated the visit of Atletico Madrid to the tournament in 2016 and supported all of our local grassroots events, such as the Future Players Talent Identification programme, Schools Cup and Gauteng Cup.” concluded Whelan.
The Future Champions Gauteng this year features four previous winners among the 12-team field – Brazilian side Clube Atletico Mineiro, defending champions Torino from Italy, Shandong Luneng from China and Club Tijuana of Mexico.
Also competing from outside of South Africa are Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, top Belgian side Club Brugge and Mozambican club Ferroviario Maputo.
There will also be five local entrants in the field – Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and Black Aces.