The Mamelodi Sundowns Under-17 side have done South Africa proud with a fifth-placed finish at the inaugural Future Champions tournament in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, that took place from December 12 to 18.
Sundowns made up part of a field of 12 of the top Under-17 sides in the world, including the likes of Barcelona (Spain), Everton (England), Paris Saint-Germain (France), as well as a quartet of Brazilians clubs in the form of Atletico Mineiro, Vasco da Gama, Cruzeiro and Corinthians.
The competition was ultimately won by Belo Horizonte side Atletico Mineiro, who defeated Sundowns 1-0 in their opening Group A match. Downs, coached by Floyd Mogale, and then drew 1-1 with top Chilean side Universidad de Chile which meant they finished second in the pool.
It was not enough to advance to the semi-finals of the competition, but they did then beat Corinthians 1-0, which meant a play-off for fifth-place with French giants Paris Saint-Germain. Sundowns claimed the play-off 2-1 to finish ahead of the likes of Barcelona, Club America (Mexico), Atletico Peñarol (Uruguay) and DC United (USA) in the tournament rankings.
“Going into the Tournament, we were motivated by the fact that we were the only African team participating. The boys displayed good football skills throughout, particularly when one considers that this squad was assembled only one month prior to the Tournament.
It was a great opportunity for Sundowns to play against some of the world’s premier clubs. Although they faced some tough competition, they rose to the challenge as true ambassadors for South Africa” said the Sundowns head coach, Floyd Mogale.
The head coach of DC United, Roberto DaSilva, had this to say about the Sundowns team:
“We saw the team play in several matches; they brought a little bit of the “Brazilian style” to the tournament – it was like having five Brazilian teams participating. We were very impressed by number 21 Mose Siyabulala, (Centre Midfield) and number 6 Masuku Jabulane (Centre Back)”
South African Football Association (SAFA) executive member Xolani Mtumtum was in Brazil to witness the display from Sundowns and he says there is much hope for the future with this fantastic side.
“It was a privilege to be invited to the Future Champions Belo Horizonte tournament and witness Sundowns’ performance against some of the world’s premier Under-17 clubs. I was impressed by their performance throughout, as well as the excellent leadership provided by their coach, Floyd Mogale. I look forward to watching their progress throughout 2011, particularly as they hope to participate in the upcoming Future Champions Gauteng competition,” says Mr Mtumtum.
“The role of tournaments such as the Future Champions concept in the development of our football should not be underestimated. SAFA gives its full backing to competitions of this nature and we hope that in the near future we are able to expand participation so that clubs from across the country can showcase their talent and get the exposure that Sundowns enjoyed in Brazil. SAFA would also like to extend it’s heartfelt thanks to Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Mr Lebogang Maile for giving these boys the opportunity of a lifetime, as well as the organisers of the Future Champions Belo Horizonte.”
Ray Whelan, Tournament Director, has also spoken of the success of the Future Champions Belo Horizonte and the tremendous showing from Sundowns.
“The inaugural edition of Future Champions Belo Horizonte was a great success. We had top clubs from all corners of the globe, including Everton, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona competing against Brazil’s best. The inclusion of Mamelodi Sundowns in the tournament representing South Africa, and indeed the African continent, proved to be a worthy choice. They exceeded expectations, placing fifth out of the 12 premier international clubs that participated. The highlight of their performance was their defeating of Brazil’s famous Corinthians. PSL and SAFA should be proud of the boys who continued their development and experience on foreign soil against foreign opposition.”
Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Mr Lebogang Maile is also delighted with the Sundowns youngsters, who have showcased the enormous talent of the Gauteng province to the world stage.
“Sundowns won the right to represent Gauteng and South Africa at the Future Champions Belo Horizonte and they did not disappoint with their wonderful showing against some of the top teams in the world in their age-group. We now look forward to welcoming the world’s best to the Future Champions Gauteng tournament in March and April of next year and continue to build this fantastic competition into one of the world’s foremost Under-17 tournaments,” says Mr Maile.
Atletico Mineiro, as the top placed Brazilian club and tournament winners, will now represent Brazil at the Gauteng Future Champions competition that will be played in March and April of next year.
Just which side will represent South Africa at the Gauteng Future Champions tournament next year will be decided at the 2011 Gauteng Cup tournament that will take place on January 29 and 30.
For further information, please visit www.future-champions.net