Every year since 1939, traditional Zurich club FC Blue Stars has staged the prestigious Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, the increasingly popular tournament which showcases the best emerging talents from the world of club football. FIFA took over the competition's organisation in 1991, by which time many of the world's best-known teams had already been sending their fledgling stars to compete for over 50 years.
After Swiss clubs triumphed at each of the first eight editions of the tournament between 1939 and 1946, three of the subsequent four titles were claimed by sides from Vienna. From thereon in, the event became far more international, with the likes of Strasbourg, AC Milan, 1860 Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Atalanta all celebrating titles before the 1980s.
Between 1980 and 1999, winners included Roma, Inter, Cremonese, Celtic, FK Sarajevo, Read Madrid, Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica. Since then local boys Grasshopper Zurich have also lifted the coveted trophy, as well as other Swiss teams BSC Young Boys, Lausanne Sports and FC Basel.
English clubs have enjoyed particular success down the years. Manchester United had won the tournament no less than 16 times by the turn of the century, while Birmingham City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest have also all celebrated victories. Since the competition's rebranding as the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in 1999, South American sides have come to the fore, collecting five titles between them.
1999: Sao Paulo impress
In spite of heavy rainfall, Sao Paulo and FC Zurich stood head and shoulders above the rest in 1999 thanks to their silky ball skills and fighting spirit. 11,000 spectators watched the final at the Letzigrund Stadium, where the Brazilian outfit became the first non-European winners of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup following a penalty shoot-out. Meanwhile Abuja Unity Boys FC became the first Nigerian club to compete at the tournament.
2000: Successful title defence
Once again Sao Paulo were champions, and once again the young Brazilians required penalties to secure their crown. This time Spanish outfit Valencia provided the opposition in the final. Ranking third to sixth were Benfica, Bayern Munich and the two Zurich clubs, Grasshoppers and FCZ.
2001: Brazilians make it three
In glorious weather and before a magnificent crowd, Brazil's representatives Gremio marched to a deserving title with a 3-0 victory over Grasshoppers. It was the highest winning margin in a final since Celtic's 4-0 thumping of Aston Villa in 1986.
2002: Boca Juniors triumph
With the 64th edition of the tournament taking place place in the same year as the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ in Korea/Japan, the Organising Committee invited teams from all previous FIFA World Cup-winning nations to Zurich, as well as the two host nations. Top Argentinian club Boca Juniors harnessed the fantastic atmosphere to beat holders Gremio in the final. While Lazio finished ahead of Le Havre in third, the Japanese (sixth), Uruguayan (ninth) and Korean (tenth) representatives all finished above 11th-placed Manchester United.
2003: European comeback
A year later, Boca Juniors again earned many new admirers but were unable to finish higher than fifth. Indeed, with the South American monopoly of the competition coming to an end, Roma retook the baton for Europe with a classy 2-1 victory over Spain's Celta Vigo in the final. Curiously, all three goals were headers.
2004: United celebrate anniversary success
Fifty years after winning their first Blue Stars title, Manchester United ended their drought with a first triumph in over 20 years. Having trailed for much of the final against FC Zurich, the English club equalised late on in the match before going on to win on penalties.
2005: Red Devils make it two in a row
The following year, Manchester United maintained their grip on the trophy, racking up their 18th tournament victory against Swedish representatives AIK Stockholm and in doing so setting a formidable record. Maccabi Haifa of Israel and FK Flamurtari of the former UN-governed entity Kosovo (now the Republic of Kosovo) each took part in the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup for the very first time.
2006: Swiss top three
Due to the reconstruction of the Letzigrund Stadium, the 2006 tournament was held in the nearby Hardturm Stadium. For the first time since 1972, the final was contested between two clubs from the host nation of Switzerland. Grasshopper Zurich emerged 1-0 victors on their own patch against BSC Young Boys, while event hosts FC Blue Stars Zurich surprised many observers by finishing third, their best showing since 1967.
2007: Trophy goes to Belgrade
Staged at the Buchlern sporting facility for the very first time, the tournament once again proved a resounding success. Following two thrilling semi-finals in which Partizan Belgrade beat Hamburg and FC Zurich overcame city rivals Grasshoppers, Partizan claimed the trophy with a penalty shoot-out win against their Swiss counterparts.
2008: FCZ come out on top
FC Zurich went one better the following year, fending off stiff competition from FC Basel in the final following one of the most hotly-contested tournaments ever. Manchester United finished third, ahead of Hamburg, Villarreal, Flamengo, AEK Athens, Partizan Belgrade, FC Blue Stars and Grasshoppers.
2009: Schurpf leads Basel to victory
The trophy remained in Switzerland in 2009 as player of the tournament Pascal Schurpf inspired FC Basel to victory over local rivals Grasshoppers in the final. Real Madrid finished sixth, while Beijing Guoan of PR China came eighth.
2010: Boca Juniors hit back
Boca Juniors celebrated their first title since 2004 thanks in large part to Ramiro Fernando Martinez, who was subsequently named goalkeeper of the tournament. The Argentinians overcame FC Zurich in the final. Kaizer Chiefs won the Fair Play award having travelled all the way from South Africa to be a part of the tournament.
2011: Porto's shootout success
Thanks to a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over FC Zurich in the final, Porto took good in the 2011 edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup. The Portuguese outfit were indebted to Christian Twasam, whose tally of three goals helped him to walk away with the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament's best player. Kristian Tijan Kalina of Dinamo Zagreb was named the tournament's best goalkeeper, while Maccabi Haifa were honoured with the Fair Play award.
2012: FCZ regain crown
Grasshopper won an all-Swiss final in 2006, but they lost this one to FC Zurich. Very organised and good on the ball, FCZ emerged as early favourites to lift the trophy and managed it when second-half goals from Fabio Schmid and Imren secured them a 2-0 win over their compatriots. Zenit finished third with TP Mazembe, who played highly exciting football, coming home fourth.
2013: FCZ retain crown
In a one-sided final, FC Zurich raced to a 4-0 half-time lead against Brazilian side Botafogo FR, adding a fifth after the break to take the trophy for a second successive year. To cap it all off, custodian Thierry Ursprung was awarded the adidas Golden Glove as the competition’s best goalkeeper after keeping clean sheets in all five games, as well as saving a penalty in the final.