The 77th edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup boasts an outstanding line-up full of budding superstars. The Brazilian ball wizards of CA Paranaense are returning to Zurich to defend their title on 13 and 14 May – and will face stiff competition from the likes of Werder Bremen from current world champions Germany, along with representatives of four other major European footballing nations: Benfica (Portugal), Feyenoord (Netherlands), IFK Göteborg (Sweden) and Bursaspor (Turkey). FC Zurich, Grasshoppers, Lucerne and hosts Blue Stars complete the line-up, and will once again confirm that young Swiss players have nothing to fear when it comes to international competition.
One of Zurich’s oldest clubs, Blue Stars have been staging Switzerland’s most prestigious youth tournament since 1939, which 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. The organisers always place the accent firmly on footballing and cultural diversity, and 14 countries feature in the roll call of winners, including all of those to have won the World Cup (apart from Uruguay), as well as other countries steeped in football tradition like Russia, Serbia and Portugal. Players who have gone on to become household names, such as Bobby Charlton, Pep Guardiola, David Beckham, Nani, Kaka and Gerard Piqué, along with Swiss stars Köbi Kuhn and Xherdan Shaqiri, have all left their mark on the competition.
Line-up of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2015
Atlético Paranaense (Brazil):The defending champions from World Cup venue Curitiba are making their second Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup appearance, having defeated Benfica 1-0 in the 2014 final.
Werder Bremen (Germany): Werder Bremen’s youth team is one of the most successful in Germany, and the club’s youth development programme has contributed to the North Germans becoming a firm fixture in the Bundesliga, with four championships under their belt. The coach of the U-19s is former German international Mirko Votava, who won the Blue Stars tournament in 1973 with Borussia Dortmund.
Feyenoord(Netherlands): Dutch youth teams are renowned for their tactical and technical nous and this product of the Feyenoord academy is no exception, building in club football on the achievements of the three-time World Cup finalists.
Benfica(Portugal): Winners of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in 1996 and beaten finalists last year, Benfica bring a wealth of technical class and creativity to the tournament – and their fans are sure to provide a lively atmosphere.
IFK Göteborg(Sweden): The appearance of these Swedish giants sees the return of an old friend, Mats Gren, the former Grasshoppers favourite and current head of sport at IFK Göteborg, who now wants his youth team to replicate the success that he had as a player.
Bursaspor(Turkey): Bursaspor boast one of the biggest fan bases in Turkey – and their players certainly make a noise on the pitch, too. Based in the Anatolian city of Bursa, the club’s biggest success to date was becoming Turkish champions in the 2009-2010 season.
FC Lucerne (Switzerland): After a lengthy break, the team from central Switzerland return to the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup – for their 18th appearance. Coached by former Swiss Super League players Gerardo Seoane and Selver Hodžić, this Lucerne outfit is among the top teams in the fourth tier of the Swiss football league.
Grasshoppers Zurich (Switzerland): Former Swiss international Boris Smiljianić is bringing an ambitious team to the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, with expectations growing following recent results in the fourth tier of the Swiss football league.
FC Zurich (Switzerland): The most successful Swiss team to take part in the tournament in recent years, FC Zurich were winners in 2012 and 2013 and also lost in the final on penalties in the two previous years. Artur Petrosyan’s side is again among the favourites for this year’s edition.
FC Blue Stars Zurich (Switzerland/hosts): As ever, the hosts will be battling to achieve a good finish and are always capable of producing an upset.