By FOCUS REPORTER
THE Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro will bring their own Samba magic to the 2011 Gauteng Future Champions as their Under-17 side look to defend the title they won in Belo Horizonte in December when the South African competition is played from March 28 to April 2.
Atletico were crowned Belo Horizonte Future Champions when they beat compatriots Cruzeiro in the final of the competition they hosted late last
year and will arrive in South Africa this time round as one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Popularly known as 'The Roosters', Atletico were founded in 1908 and have been a major part of the successful rise of Brazilian football through the
20th Century. They have had a number of world-class players down the years,but perhaps the most well-known internationally are former Brazilian
national team goalkeeper Cláudio Taffarel and 2002 FIFA World Cup winner Gilberto Silva.
Atletico have won their State championship a remarkable 40 times, and also clinched the Brazilian national title in 1971. Added to that they have twice
been crowned the best club in South America, winning the Copa Sudamerica in 1992 and 1997.
The 2011 Gauteng Future Champions, organised by the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, is one of the most prestigious junior
competitions on the global football calendar and will feature four localsides competing against eight other entrants from around the world.
Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven have already been confirmed as participants this year and, aside from Atletico, will be joined in the draw by South Africa's
Orlando Pirates, Jomo Cosmos, Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns. A total of 12 teams, split into four groups of three sides, compete in the tournament.
“Brazilian football holds a special place in the hearts of all followers of the Beautiful Game for the style and excellence with which they approach the
sport. We are excited to welcome Atletico Mineiro to our province for the 2011 Gauteng Future Champions competition, which will further our excellent
relationship with the people of Belo Horizonte,” said Mr Lebogang Maile, MEC for the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
“Belo Horizonte did an exceptional job in hosting the Future Champions tournament in December, a competition in which Atletico were deservedly
crowned winners. The links that we forged with that beautiful region of Brazil, both on and off the pitch, have begun a new and exciting
relationship that we look forward to furthering at the 2011 Gauteng Future Champions.”
André Figueiredo, General Manager of the Atletico Mineiro Youth Department said "We were honored to have won the first Future Champions Tournament in
Brazil last year. The team will bring the same amount of focused determination and skill to South Africa next month, as we hope to bring home
the trophy once again, representing Belo Horizonte with pride.
As a 2014 Host City, we look forward to replicating the excellent job that Gauteng did in 2010."
Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, the fastest growing state in Brazil, and the third most important Brazilian city, with a
strong cultural identity and famous for it’s hospitality. It will be a host city during the 2014 FIFA World Cup that will be played in Brazil.
The last Gauteng Future Champions competition was held in January 2010 and was won by Chinese side Shandong Luneng, who beat French outfit Paris
Saint-Germain in the final.
For further information, please visit www.future-champions.net <http://www.future-champions.net/>