The teams preparing for the Future Champions Gauteng Cup on March 11 will all have one thing on their minds and that is reaching the prestigious Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament later in the month.
There they will take on some of the best Under-17 teams in the world, testing their skills against sides with different styles and qualities than they would have faced before.
Italian Serie A side Torino FC and top Belgium’s Club Brugge have already been confirmed for the International Tournament at the Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto from March 20-25, and there are two more names to be added to that exciting duo.
A Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) Under-17 All Stars side will compete, bringing some West African flair to the competition.
Nigerian football has long been at the forefront of football on the continent and they have produced many great players over the years, the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Finidi George, Joseph Yobo, Nwankwo Kanu, Vincent Enyeama and the late Stephen Keshi, just to name a few.
“The NPFL is delighted to say it is an absolute honour to be taking part in the Future Champion Gauteng tournament,” said Shehu Dikko, Chairman of the League Management Company Limited.
“The NPFL All-Stars Under-17 team is ready to compete and display to the world our great talents. This is also an enriching opportunity and a moment of history that will always be remembered.
”We are really looking forward to the tournament and visiting South Africa too.”
They will not be the first team from Nigeria to compete at the tournament – Apapa Golden Stars, Bridge FC and Saki West have all represented the country before.
Joining the Nigerian team in the draw is a side from 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts Russia, Spartak Moscow, who will bring another fascinating dimension to the tournament.
They will not be the first Russian team to compete, Rubin Kazan were also at the tournament in 2011 and went all the way to the final before losing to Brazilian side Clube Atletico Mineiro.
Spartak are Russia’s most successful club having won 12 Soviet Championships and a record nine Russian league titles.
Formed in 1924, they are currently coached by the Italian Massimo Carrera, and have players from all corners of the globe, including Zambian forward Fashion Sakala. They are also the current leaders in the 2016/17 Russian Premier League season and look as they will grab yet another title this campaign.
“The main aim of our work is that the football players of Spartak Academy, (named after legendary former player Fyodor Cherenkov) will one day be able to join squads of the youth and senior teams of Spartak and to defend not only our red-white colours, but also the honour of the country at the international tournaments,” says Dmitry Sidorov, Director of the Spartak Academy.
“For our players, Future Champions Gauteng is one of the steps to this goal and a good chance to not only check yourselves while contesting with other academies, but also to gain invaluable experience.
“We are glad to have the opportunity to compete with such well-known European academies like Club Brugge, Torino and Atletico [Madrid]. It will be also interesting to meet the teams from South Africa, India, Mexico, China, Nigeria.
“And we take special interest to play with Torino Academy, which our coaches have recently visited for an exchange of practices with our Italian colleagues.
“We would like to wish all participants of Future Champions Gauteng 2017 exciting matches, beautiful goals, the ability to make a great impression and, of course, no injuries!” concluded Sidorov.
Both these sides will be hopeful of being on the winners’ podium come March 25.
The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament is organised by Global Sports International in conjunction with the Gauteng Provincial Government.