Preparations for the 2017 Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, during which youth teams representing some of the world’s top clubs will lock horns in late May, are now in full swing. As the big kick-off approaches, FIFA.com presents some key facts about a tournament that constitutes a breeding ground for some of the beautiful game’s stars of the future.
- 79 years of experience
For almost eight decades now, the world’s most talented young players have acquired their first taste of competitive international action at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, a competition that was first launched back in 1939. FC Blue Stars, Zurich’s oldest club, which was founded in 1898 and was one of the first in Switzerland to establish a separate junior division, decided to organise a tournament for young footballers, as part of their commitment to youth development.
It was Blue Stars’ neighbours, Grasshoppers, who emerged victorious from the inaugural tournament, and in a quirk of fate, they also happen to be the most recent winners, having beaten English side West Ham United in the 2016 final. The hosts, meanwhile, have seen their name engraved on the trophy no fewer than seven times, a record that places them second on the event’s all-time league table – still some way behind the leaders Manchester United (18 victories).
- The 2017 Cup: who, where and when?
The 79th edition of the tournament will run from 24 to 25 May 2017 at the Buchlern sports complex in Zurich.
Hosts FC Blue Stars and Grasshopper are both scheduled to compete again, as are four other teams that took part in 2016: FC Zurich (Switzerland), West Ham United (England), Anderlecht (Belgium) and Benfica (Portugal). In addition, fans will have the chance to cheer on lndependiente Santa Fe (Colombia), Mainz (Germany), Lyon (France) and St Gallen (Switzerland).
- An apt slogan
For 78 years, the prestigious competition has lived up to its slogan, “Where Stars are Born”. Although it is always difficult to imagine where the future careers of blossoming talents may lead, given the remarkable history of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup and the identity of certain previous participants, it is not unthinkable that some of this year’s competitors could eventually play at the very highest level.
In 1956, the Manchester United team that took part featured Bobby Charlton, who would lift the FIFA World Cup™ ten years later with England. The same year, German Helmut Haller was also present in Zurich, and found himself on the opposite side of the pitch from Charlton in the 1966 final!
In 1977, Fulvio Collovati, who would secure a World Cup winners’ medal in 1982, was part of the AC Milan side that triumphed at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup.
Other big names who first took to the international stage in Switzerland include Klaus Augenthaler and Markus Babbel (Germany), Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland), Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Phil Neville (England), Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria), Pep Guardiola and Gerard Pique (Spain), and Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs (Wales).
“The tournament has an excellent reputation and is one of the best in Europe, if not the world,” said Giggs a few years’ back. “Long may it continue.”
On 24 and 25 May, a brand new batch of young players will take their first tentative steps towards global stardom in Zurich.