BRAZILIAN side Clube Atletico Mineiro will return to the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament this year, hoping to regain the trophy they have won on two previous occasions.
Atletico won the Future Champions Gauteng competition in 2011 and 2012, but last year were undone in the semi-finals by English side Everton and went on to finish third.
Their rich tradition of producing exciting young talent for Brazilian football means they will be among the favorites again this year.
The senior side is one of the more well-known out of Brazil, though their only ever National League title came all the way back in 1971. They finished eighth in the league in 2013.
They are coached by veteran tactician Paulo Autuori, who has had jobs all around the world.
They count among their current stars Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, current Brazil national team strike Jo, as well as international defenders Réver, Leonardo Silva and Marcos Rocha, and goalkeeper Victor.
The Under-17 side has shown incredible attacking skill and have been a joy to watch, bringing with them typical South American flair.
“Once more we are very glad to participate in one of the most important Under-17 tournaments in the world. This level of competition increases experience in our players’ careers. At the same time it provides an amazing opportunity to show how we do our job at Clube Atletico Mineiro Young Players department to other teams from around the globe,” says Andre Figueiredo, coach of Clube Atletico Mineiro.
Atletico have been drawn in Group B at the 2014 tournament along with Zambian side K-Stars, Dutch club Ado Den Haag and South African club Supersport Tottenham Hotspur Academy.
Barclays Premier League side Sunderland AFC will this year be making their debut at the Future Champions Gauteng and hoping to go one better than compatriots Everton, who lost in the final to Mexico’s Club Tijuana last year.
Sunderland AFC also known as the Black Cats are one of the most successful clubs in English football, having won six league titles and two F.A cups, in 1937 and 1973.
The club, who recently appeared in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley Stadium, will be hoping for similar success when the club’s under-16 team head to South Africa.
The current side, coached by Uruguayan Gus Poyet, counts among their stars England internationals Adam Johnson and Wes Brown, as well as skipper John O’Shea from the Republic of Ireland.
“This will be a fantastic experience for the boys to test themselves against some of the finest opposition from across the globe. We are also looking to learn how teams in other parts of the world operate and their different styles of play. I am sure this will be a life enriching experience for everyone at the club,” says Ged McNamee, Academy Manager at Sunderland AFC.
Sunderland AFC has been drawn in Group D and will pit their wits against Royal Wahingdoh FC from India, USYSA Select from the USA and South African side Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament will take place from March 24-29 at the Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto, where entrance to the soccer action will be free throughout the week.