FutureChamps : The world’s best U17 football teams to converge for the 2016 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament
Some of the world’s leading junior football teams will meet in South Africa for the 2016 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament at the Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto from 14 to 19 March.
Now firmly established as a popular fixture on the global junior football calendar, the event is in its eighth year and will once again give us a glimpse of the future stars of the game in action.
Organised by Global Sports International, in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government, South African Football Association (SAFA) and the City of Johannesburg, the tournament will feature five local sides and seven top teams from around the world.
The field features four former tournament winners, including three-time champions Clube Atletico Mineiro of Brazil, Club Tijuana (Mexico), Shandong Luneng (China) and last year’s winners, Torino (Italy).
The former winners are each top seeds in the four pools, where they have been joined by the three other international sides and five local favourites.
Group 1 looks particularly enticing and will include a Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates FC and Kaizer Chiefs FC after these two giants of the South African game were paired together. The duo will also face-off against Clube Atletico Mineiro in what is tipped to be a mighty challenge.
Group 2 sees Club Tijuana take on top Belgian outfit Club Brugge and South African side Mamelodi Sundowns FC in what should be a fiercely contested pool.
Sundowns claimed their place in the international tournament with a commanding performance in the Future Champions Gauteng Cup played on March 6.
Group 3 will see Shandong Luneng play Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and local side Black Aces FC.
Shandong won the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament in 2010 but will be hard-pressed for a repeat against the academy side of Atletico that has produced so many world-class players in the past.
The final Group 4 sees defending champions Torino take on Ferroviário de Maputo, who return for a second year, as well as local side Bidvest Wits FC.
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 will take part in a play-off to determine positions five to 12.
“We are delighted to once again host the Gauteng Future Champions International Tournament, which showcases the best footballing talent not only in our province but also around the world. Football is a huge part of our communities across the province and we have made it our goal to better serve the people of Gauteng in all our engagements with them. It is why we launched the Ntirhisano service delivery model in 2014 that has been such a huge success and why we continue to make delivery to our people a top priority,” said Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
“We are truly excited to get this opportunity to not only catch a glimpse of future internationals from around the world, but also from our very own province. All five Gauteng teams competing this year have a rich history of developing players for the local game and that should make this compelling viewing for any South African football fan and allows us to once again show that Gauteng is the enabler of sporting excellence,” said MEC Faith Mazibuko for the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
The Gauteng Department of Education’s deputy director general, Vuyani Mpofu says this is a great opportunity for the players from all teams to interact and learn about their different cultures.
“For these young boys to interact with learners from all around the world has significant educational value and we urge all the teams to come together in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie. There is much to learn from each other and we look forward to welcoming our guests from around the world and will make sure they enjoy their stay in our province and learn what makes South Africa such a special country,” said Mpofu.
Tournament director Ray Whelan added, “The Future Champions Gauteng tournament is now very well established on the football calendar and the standard of football has been very high. We are looking forward to taking that to a new level this year. I must give credit to the Gauteng Province for the way they make the teams feel so welcome, which is why there is such a desire from teams to come back year after year. It is amazing to see how this event has grown since 2009 and we look forward to reaching even greater heights in the future.
“The Future Champions Gauteng project is thrilled to be back in Soweto again where the event began and we enjoy working with the expertise of SAFA, and in particular the Soweto LFA (Local Football Association), and hope the football fans of Gauteng will come to see top-class football with great local interest.”
Gauteng Tourism Authority will also play a part in the event as they entertain the players and expose them to the province’s rich history.
“The Future Champions Gauteng tournament provides the players with an opportunity to explore what Gauteng and South Africa have to offer beyond the football fields. We want them to experience the highlights of the dynamic and vibrant Gauteng City Region. The players have certainly shown great appreciation for this in the past,” said Siphiwe Ngwenya, CEO of Gauteng Tourism Authority.
This year’s Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament will also be supported by the Gauteng Gambling Board, Spain’s La Liga, Sedgars’ Winner brand, the Clinix Health Group, Levati Water, Motordeal and Score energy drinks.