The path to the 2017 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament has begun with the four school sides set to participate at the upcoming Future Champions Gauteng Cup and come a step closer to achieving their aim of competing with some of the best Under-17 sides in the world.
Esokwazi Secondary School, Bophelo Impilo Community School, Kwadukathole Comprehensive and Kingsway High School have all booked their place in the Gauteng Cup that will be staged on March 11, at which the four qualifiers for the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament will be revealed.
That competition will be staged from March 20-25 at the Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto and feature 12 teams all vying for the right to be crowned champions, including some top names from the world of international football.
Returning for a third year in a row will be Italian club Torino FC, whose senior side campaign in Serie A.
Torino first appeared at the tournament in 2015 when they claimed the title, defeating local Gauteng side SuperSport United 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out in the final following a 0-0 draw.
They were back last year but this time finished in fifth place, though a number of their players caught the eye, including the free-scoring Alessandro Iacuaniello.
The club hails 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.
The club holds the record for the most youth league title wins in Italy having claimed nine, the last in the 2014/15 season.
“To return to Johannesburg is always exciting for all of us. We are proud to participate in the 2017 edition of the tournament,” Torino’s head of youth, Massimo Bava, said.
The second European team to compete in 2017 is Belgian side Club Brugge, who also took part in the 2016 edition.
They finished a healthy seventh, but will hope to improve on that showing.
Club Brugge are one of the most decorated sides in their local domestic competition having won 14 Belgian league titles, second only to rivals Anderlecht, with their last success in 2015/16.
They won the Belgian Cup in 2015 for the 11th time and in the 1970s and 80s were regular visitors to the latter stages of European club competitions.
The side is currently coached by former Belgian international goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme, and is among the leading contenders for the championship again this year.
They have a long history of helping to develop African talent, including ex-South Africa international Elrio van Heerden.
“Evolution In football is more and more ‘thinking and acting global’. The Future Champions Gauteng tournament allows us to compete with different teams from around the world,” says Pascal De Maesschalck, head of the club’s academy.
“This tournament creates the possibility to learn more about the way football is played in Africa. And at the same time, we also can play against teams from Central America and Asia. All that is necessary to develop players in every way!”
The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament is organised by Global Sports International in conjunction with the Gauteng Provincial Government.