The 78th edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in Zurich on 4-5 May will once again boast an outstanding line-up full of budding superstars. FC Luzern will be looking to defend the title they won last year, but they will be up against some stiff competition from the likes of FC St. Pauli, the cult club from current world champions Germany, and representatives of four other major European footballing nations: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium), Benfica (Portugal), Feyenoord (Netherlands) and West Ham United (England).
Another team making its Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup debut will be China PR’s Guangzhou Football Club, who will be only the second Chinese team to grace this prestigious youth tournament after Beijing Guoan FC (eighth in 2009).
FC Zurich, Grasshoppers and hosts Blue Stars will complete the line-up, and together they will once again prove that young Swiss players have nothing to fear when it comes to international competition.
Tradition and a variety of playing styles Fourteen different countries currently feature in the roll call of Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup winners, including all of those to have won the World Cup (apart from Uruguay) as well as other traditional footballing nations such as Russia, Serbia and Portugal. Players who have gone on to become household names, such as Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Pep Guardiola, David Beckham, Nani, Kaka and Gerard Pique, along with Swiss stars Kobi Kuhn and Xherdan Shaqiri, have all left their mark on the competition.
FC Blue Stars, one of Zurich’s oldest clubs, has organised the youth competition since its launch in 1939, and it quickly became one of those rare events that offer an opportunity to experience a variety of playing cultures, and it has certainly lost none of its international allure over the years.
Line-up for the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2016 RSC Anderlecht (Belgium): The Belgian giants will be making their return to the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup after an absence of 12 years. While the team may not be having everything their own way at the moment, Anderlecht will certainly have some talented youngsters in their ranks in Zurich, such as Wout Faes, who was part of the Belgian team that won the bronze medal at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile last year.
Benfica (Portugal): The Portuguese side finished third last year, and they last won the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup back in 1996. Benfica will bring an explosive mix of technique and creativity to Zurich – and their hordes of fans are sure to provide a lively atmosphere.
Feyenoord (Netherlands): The Dutch side finished fifth last year and also claimed the Fair Play Trophy for good measure. Dutch youth teams are renowned for their tactical and technical nous, and the Feyenoord Academy has high hopes for this team at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2016.
Guangzhou Football Club (China PR): No other country is as active in football right now as China, and Guangzhou Football Club are probably the most well-known and successful club in the country. How is their youth development work shaping up? We will have the answer to that question after watching Guangzhou FC at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2016.
FC St. Pauli (Germany): FC St. Pauli, one of the biggest cult clubs in Germany, are another team that will be making their Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup debut. The Hamburg-based club boasts many fans in Switzerland. FC St. Pauli are renowned for training young players, with the goal of developing and preparing each individual player for the demands of professional football so that at least one player turns pro every season.
West Ham United (England): This will the Hammers’ fifth appearance at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, having made their debut way back in 1959 with future 1966 world champions Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters all in their squad. The club is well known for its brand of stylish, attacking football, which is played by the first team all the way down to the youth teams. Fans in Zurich can therefore look forward to a typically English style of attacking football.
FC Luzern (Switzerland): Last year, the club from central Switzerland surprised many by winning the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, but their triumph was no more than they deserved as their consistency carried them all the way to the title. Gerardo Seaone’s team are currently leading Group 2 of the fourth tier of Swiss football.
Grasshoppers (Switzerland): Former Swiss internationals Boris Smiljanić and Johan Vogel will field a strong team at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, with expectations growing following recent results in the fourth tier of the Swiss football league. They are currently occupying second place in Group 3, seven points behind leaders Baden but with two games in hand.
FC Zurich (Switzerland): FC Zurich are still the most successful Swiss team to take part in the tournament in recent years with two titles (2012 and 2013) and three runners-up finishes (in 2010, 2011 and 2015) to their name. Will Artur Petrosyan’s side be among the favourites for this year’s edition? Only time will tell as his team are currently struggling a little in the Promotion League.
FC Blue Stars (Switzerland/hosts): The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup is always the highlight of the year for the hosts, whose youngsters will again be looking for a good finish after finishing tenth in 2013, 2014 and 2015.