Johannesburg, Friday, 22nd March 2013 – The prestigious 2013 Future Champions Gauteng international tournament returns for a fifth year of competition at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto from March 25-30.
The event has become a major fixture on the junior international football calendar and is one of the most respected tournaments in the Under-17 age-group in the world, drawing a superb line-up of teams from across the globe.
The 2013 event will once again be organised by Global Sports International on behalf of the Gauteng Provincial Government, and this year features teams from South and Central America, Europe, Middle East and other parts of the African continent.
The international teams that will be competing are two-time defending champions Clube Atletico Mineiro from Brazil, as well Club Tijuana from Mexico who are returning to the competition having been popular participants in 2011.
Europe will be represented by English giants Everton, along with top Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, two of the most famous and historic clubs from that continent. There will also a second appearance for the Aspire Academy in Qatar, while regular visitors K-Stars from Zambia also return.
Botswana side Young Zebras, who have also been regular visitors, return, while there is a first appearance for Nigerian outfit Bridge Boys. They are better known by their former name Julius Berger, a club with a rich pedigree on the African continent.
These eight sides will be joined by four more teams from the Gauteng province, who have all won the right to compete in the international event following the 2013 Future Champions Gauteng Cup played earlier this month.
SuperSport United won that tournament, beating fellow Tshwane side University of Pretoria on penalties in the final. SAFA Sedibeng is the third South African side after they won their place in the international tournament with a semi-final showing at the Future Champions Gauteng Cup.
Johannesburg Secondary School from Mayfair is the fourth â€˜homeâ€™ side after they went through a lengthy qualification process to reach this point. They won the 2013 Future Champions Schools Cup, which gave them the right to compete in the Future Champions Gauteng Cup.
Having reached the semi-finals of that competition, they then qualified for the 2013 Future Champions Gauteng international tournament and will now take their place among the elite teams from around the globe.
The format of the competition will be the same as in previous years. The 12 teams will be split into four first round groups of three teams, with one of the South African sides in each of those pools, along with two international entrants.
The teams play each other in a round-robin format, with the top sides in each pool advancing to the semi-finals. The remaining eight teams play-off to determine positions five to 12.
The 2012 Future Champions Gauteng tournament was won by Brazilian side Clube Atletico Mineiro, who successfully defended their title after claiming the 2011 competition as well. Atletico defeated Russian side Rubin Kazan 3-0 in the 2011 final, and then beat Nacional 2-1 in 2012â€™s decider.
The 2010 Future Champions Gauteng competition was won by Chinese side Shandong Luneng, who beat French outfit Paris Saint-Germain in the final. The inaugural event in 2009 was won by Argentinean club Boca Juniors.
â€œIt is fantastic to once again welcome the 12 competing sides to this celebration of junior football with the 2013 Future Champions Gauteng tournament. The previous four years have provided rich entertainment and have been an important stepping stone for these young men as they try to forge a career as professional footballers. There is much to be learnt on and off the pitch by these players and we wish all of them the very best of luck in the tournament,â€ said Lebogang Maile, MEC for the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
Tournament Director, Ray Whelan said: “We believe we have an excellent field of teams for this yearâ€™s competition, with some of the great names of international football mixed in with emerging clubs and local teams from the Gauteng Province. We have been astounded by the success of the Future Champions Gauteng tournament in the past four years and believe this will be the best competition yet.”
Also returning this year was the Future Players Talent Identification programme, where an overwhelming 15 000 young boys and girls from around the province were put through their paces during the months of February and March.
The 2013 Future Players Talent Search winner and runners-up will be announced following the semi-finals and final, which will take place in conjunction with the Future Champions International tournament final on 30th March 2013.
The 2009 winner of that competition, Refiloe Jane, now captains Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies and represented Banyana Banyana at the 2012 Olympic Games. She, and many others who have been placed with clubs and academies, are proof of the success of the programme and what talent can be discovered via organized scouting initiatives.