While the world’s best players are still preparing for their trip to South Africa, some young players, who someday hope to fill their shoes, have already gathered in Johannesburg to battle it out for the Gauteng Future Champions tournament.
Featuring the junior (under-17) teams from some of the world’s top clubs, including Paris St Germain, Brazil’s Botafogo and DC United from the USA, as well as local teams from Kaizer Chiefs, Supersport United and two South African Football Association (SAFA) teams from Gauteng, the tournament is a showcase of young talent the world over.
Taking a break from the grueling tournament schedule, which started on 25 January and ends on 30 January at Dobsonville stadium, the players today visited the headquarters of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa to grab a sneak peak at the venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, Soccer City stadium.
As the current leading goal scorer at the tournament, already having beaten the defense on five occasions, 16-year-old Botafogo midfielder, Wellington Franca Junior, is enjoying his time on the pitch.
“It is such a great experience to come to this tournament and be overseas with all these people from around the world. I am also very happy to be the top scorer,” said the young Brazilian who was overwhelmed by being so close to World Cup Final stadium. “It is a great feeling. Never in my life have I had this opportunity. I am so grateful to be able to stand next to the stadium and I hope that one day I will be playing in here”.
Darren Harold (16), from the SAFA Johannesburg football team, is enjoying the learning experience the tournament has brought him. “It is so great to meet new people, to learn their language and to mix with them and be exposed to their style of football.
As a striker for Zambia’s K Stars under-17 team, Brian Mphande (16) is used to scoring goals, but after catching a glimpse of Soccer City stadium, the young player wants nothing more than a chance on Soccer City’s pitch.
“It is such a privilege to be able to see it, the stadium is just amazing and I will definitely play here one day.”
For Sundra Govinder, a coach and coordinator from SAFA’s Tshwane/Pretoria region, the Gauteng Future Champions tournament is a shining example of the benefits the focus of the World Cup has had on football development in the country.
“It was a learning curve for the local boys but it is good that they are exposed to the different cultures and playing styles. Both the World Cup and this tournament are a big boost for the development of the game. The World Cup is bringing the infrastructure and the excitement and every year you will see a big improvement from our side,” said Govinder.