Three more fantastic sides have been named to take part in the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament from 20-25 March, completing the 12-team line-up for this year’s prestigious Under-17 tournament.
Already confirmed for the International Tournament at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto is Italian Serie A side Torino FC, top Belgian club Club Brugge, Russian outfit Spartak Moscow and a Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) Under-17 All Stars side.
And five local sides joined them in the line-up after the Future Champions Gauteng Cup played in Reiger Park on Saturday, 11 March as Orlando Pirates FC, Bidvest Wits, University of Pretoria, Mamelodi Sundowns and SAFA Tshwane won their place in the tournament.
But there are three more fantastic names to add to that pot – defending champions Atletico Madrid from Spain, 2013 winners Club Tijuana from Mexico and the Football School of India from India.
Atletico has a vibrant youth system that has produced a number of global stars in the past such as current striker Fernando Torres, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and retired Spanish football legend, striker Raul.
They won the La Liga title as recently as the 2013/14 season, one of 10 national titles, and also appeared in the final of the UEFA Champions League that same year where they were unlucky losers to city rivals Real Madrid.
They were also runners-up in Europe’s top prize in club football in the 2015/16 campaign.
The senior side is expertly coached by Argentine Diego Simeone, who also led the team to the UEFA Europa League title in 2012 and the Spanish Cup the following season.
Atletico was once the home of former Bafana Bafana international Quinton Fortune, who made his name there before later moving to Manchester United.
“We are very happy to be invited back to this great tournament, which will see new teams from all over the world. We would also like to repeat the title of champions this year as our colleagues did in the last edition” said Rodrigo Riquelme, captain of Atletico Madrid.
“Spain and South Africa have a special soccer relationship; there is where we became world champions for the first time.
“At the cultural level it is a privilege to be able to travel to a country like South Africa, where despite having suffered great injustices throughout its history has been able to overcome thanks to the efforts of its people. Great people and fighters have been born there, as Nelson Mandela, great referent for all humanity” concluded Riquelme.
Tijuana is a relatively new club having been formed in 2007, but compete in the Mexican top division and were winners of the 2012 Apertura Championship. They are currently coached by former Mexico national team boss Miguel Herrera. The players are mostly home-based, but are also drawn from Colombia, Argentina and the USA. Their current squad includes Mexico national team midfielder Yasser Corona.
They defeated English side Everton in the 2014 final of the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament, and then lost in the final the following year to Clube Atletico Mineiro from Brazil. They will be appearing in Gauteng for the fifth time.
“For us it is a tradition to participate in this tournament,” said Technical Director Gilberto Mora. “It’s a very important tournament as teams from various parts of the world come to play.
“The objective is the growth of the players, to get tough competition, the good level and that they are already playing players in this type of tournaments that they might meet at international level.
“With this kind of preparation, the players will know what it is like to face teams from these countries later on in their careers. It will be a great experience” concluded Mora.
Also in the 2017 draw is a side from the Asian sub-continent, the Football School of India.
The school is based in Mumbai and was founded by three former stalwarts of the Indian national team – Abhishek Yadav, Deepak Mandal and Shanmugan Venkatesh.
The school has the stated aim of breeding, nurturing and cultivating a new generation of Indian footballers rivaling the world’s best and contributing not only to the development of future players but also good role models in society.
“The team is excited and preparing well for the participation in your renowned Future Champions tournament” said Vaishali Sanas, CEO for the Football School of India.
“It will be a great experience to play along such listed good teams. We are looking forward to participate/come to South Africa and have an experience of a whole new world of opportunities and fun.” concluded Sanas.
The Future Champions Gauteng tournament is organised by Global Sports International in conjunction with the Gauteng Provincial Government.