The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament brings together teams from all over the globe and 2019 is no different with four continents represented in South Africa.
The prestigious Under-17 tournament will be staged at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto from 25th to 30th March, when top international entrants take on the best of the Gauteng Province for the coveted trophy.
Making their debut will be Chinese side Beijing Sinobo Guoan FC, who will hope to emulate compatriots Shandong Luneng, who lifted the trophy in 2010 after they beat French giants Paris St Germain on penalties in the decider.
Beijing Sinobo Guoan compete in the Chinese Super League, which they won in 2009, and have claimed the country’s FA Cup on five occasions, most recently in 2018.
The senior team is currently coached by the German Roger Schmidt, while they count among their players DR Congo international Cédric Bakambu and the former Brazil national team star Renato Augusto.
They also supply several players to the Chinese national team at all age-group levels.
"This is our first time in South Africa and we think it will improve our players' international vision. On the other hand, they have to play five matches in six days, which is a good challenge for them with regards their physical condition," said Coach Zhai Biao.
"We hope we can not only study different football philosophies of the other teams, but also show our ability. We hope our players can experience different cultures and make some new friends in South Africa." concluded Biao.
Joining them in the field is the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) All-Stars Under-17 side, made up of players in the junior teams of Nigerian top-flight clubs.
The select team appeared at the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament in 2017 and made it all the way to the final before being beaten 2-1 by Spanish LaLiga side Atletico Madrid.
Nigerian footballers have made a massive mark in global football and provide some of the most revered names from the African continent, including Vincent Enyeama, John Obi Mikel, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Sunday Oliseh.
“The NPFL All-Stars U17 are looking forward to the upcoming Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament. The players and coaches are excited and working hard towards this tournament,” said the head of the delegation, Mansur Aminu.
“This tournament allows the NPFL to develop more grassroots football, and the youth players to showcase their talents and compete with teams from all over the world."
“Let’s go NPFL All-Stars. Naija!” concluded Aminu.
The other international teams confirmed for the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament are RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (Spain), Reggio Audace (Italy), Spartak Moscow (Russia), FC Brugge (Belgium), Club Tijuana (Mexico) and All India Football Federation (India).
They will join the four local sides that qualify from the Future Champions Gauteng Cup that will be staged on 16th and 17th March.
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