Young Stars chase glory in Soweto

ONE of the prime junior football events in the continent, the Future Champions Gauteng, will once again see some of the best Under-17 sides from around the world participate in Soweto, South Africa next weekend in a quest to be crowned champions.

Among the sides confirmed are Brazilians Clube Atletico Mineiro, who will be back to defend their crown, Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, Ghana’s FC Nania and Botswana’s Gaborone Young Zebras. New England Revolution (USA) and Nacional (Uruguay) will also participate.

Miniero, who beat Russian outfit Rubin Kazan in last year’s edition, are favourites ahead of the tournament scheduled for the world-class Nike Training centre west of Johannesburg. Based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the club will celebrate its 104th birthday on March 25, the day before the 2012 Future Champions Gauteng tournament gets under way.

The senior side is one of the more well-known out of Brazil, though their only ever National League title came all the way back in 1971. They are coached by former Brazil international Cuca, and count among their current stars Brazilian international defender Réver. Last year they showed incredible attacking skill and were a joy to watch, bringing with them typical South American flair.

PSV will also be fancying their chances this year. Football in the Netherlands is renowned across the globe for the way they develop young players and the programmes that they have in place to nurture future stars. Some of the global greats to have turned out for the club down the years include Dutch internationals Ruud Gullit, Patrick Kluivert, Ronald Koeman, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben, Zambian legend Kalusha Bwalya, and Brazilian strike sensations Romário and Ronaldo.

Now in its fourth year, the tournament hosted by Gauteng Provincial Government has become a popular feature on the junior international football calendar and is regarded as one of the most prestigious Under-17 competitions in the world.

  • We had a wonderful football and cultural experience in Gauteng. The tournament and activities were very well organized and we found everyone involved extremely helpful and accommodating. We have all returned home with fantastic memories of our time in South Africa, both on and off the pitch, and have made many new friends as a result of the trip. I hope that we are invited to participate in future tournaments.

    Everton Academy Head Coach
  • The experience both on and off the field for our players during the Future Champions tournament in Gauteng was life-enriching for all those who participated. We were privileged enough to win this edition but what will be bringing us back in future is the cross-cultural education our players receive from spending time with athletes from all over the world. They are human beings before they are football players and enriching them with other cultures is as rewarding as the experience they receive on the field.

    Club Tijuana Director of Football
  • After twenty years of experiencing tournaments around the globe, Future Champions is hands down the best organized, well run International Tournament we have ever participated in. Bringing teams from dozens of different countries provided our boys exposure to cultural diversity they only read about in textbooks. It’s amazing how sport can be the cultural link that provides the opportunity to interact with each other and discover that our global community is a bit smaller than they realized. We had a football and cultural experience that will be cherished for the rest of our lives.

    Director of USYSA Select
  • For us to compete in Future Champions is much more than playing a series of matches. It is an opportunity to compete and contrast our level against the best teams from around the world and the possibility of living in another culture and environment for an unforgettable week, learning about the history of the fight for human rights.

    Director of Aspire Academy
  • The addition of a girls’ competition this year is a natural expansion for what has become a hugely popular event. Over and above the football, the players are also exposed to life-skills courses and HIV/AIDS awareness that could end up saving their lives in the future. We have had an amazing partnership with the Gauteng Province over the last decade and we thank each and every stakeholder for making the Future Champions Gauteng campaign such a huge success

    Tournament director