Europe will be well-represented at the 2015 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament with three top teams from the continent taking part in the prestigious event set to take place in Soweto from March 23 to 28.
The trio are part of a field of 12 teams participating in a tournament that has become a highlight on the global Under-17 football calendar since its inception in 2009.
Making their debut at the tournament is Italian Serie A side Torino, who hail from the beautiful city of Turin and count giants Juventus as their major rivals.
Torino was one of the first teams in Italy to adopt a youth system, organised as early as the 1930s.
Their academy is famed and has recently produced Italian internationals Fabio Quagliarella, Franco Semioli, Federico Balzaretti, Federico Marchetti and Angelo Ogbonna, among many others.
The club holds the record for the most youth league title wins in Italy having claimed 10, the last in the 2013/14 season.
“We are very proud to be invited to such a prestigious competition. This tournament will give our players more experience as they face teams from all over the world” said Torino head coach, Andrea Menghini.
“This event will give the players an opportunity to improve themselves” concluded Menghini.
Torino will also be the second club from Italy to take part in the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament, after Inter Milan made an appearance at the event in 2009.
English Barclays Premier League side Sunderland AFC will be sending their Under-17 team to the event, returning for a second-straight year after making their debut in 2014.
Sunderland, who are enjoying an ever-growing profile on the continent as part of the SAFC in Africa initiative were honoured to take part in the Future Champions competition last year and hope to build on their seventh finishing position last year having gained a lot of experience from their first visit.
Elliott Dickman, Head of Coaching at Sunderland AFC’s Academy said: “Last year’s tournament was a great experience for the players as they were able to test their skills against some of the best players in their age range from across the globe. We are looking to build on that this year and are confident of a successful visit.
“Sunderland has a phenomenal following in South Africa and we can’t wait to represent the club at this prestigious tournament.”
The Black Cats are one of the grand old teams of England having been formed 135 years ago; they have won six league titles in all alongside two FA Cup wins, in 1937 and 1973.
The current side is coached by the Uruguayan Gus Poyet and count among their stars England internationals Jack Rodwell and Wes Brown, and skipper John O’Shea from the Republic of Ireland.
Also returning for a second year running is Netherlands side ADO Den Haag. Dutch academies are renowned for their excellence and ADO Den Haag is no different, having produced a number of top names in the past.
The club finished ninth at the tournament last year, a solid base from which to build.
“Last year we played for the first time at the Future Champions Tournament in Gauteng and we loved the competition and the teams who took part” said ADO’s head coach, Patrick van Dullemen.
“We played against teams from all over the world and we learned a lot because all teams played different styles and came from different countries. We are really looking forward to our second participation and we hope to play well” concluded Van Dullemen.
ADO Den Haag will be celebrating their 110th birthday this year and have won two Dutch league titles, with the current squad managed by former Dutch International Henk Fräser.
Boca Juniors from Argentina were crowned champions of the inaugural competition in 2009, with Chinese side Shandong Luneng victors in 2010, before Atletico Mineiro claimed the next two and triumphed again in 2014. Mexican side Club Tijuana won in 2013.