SPORTS AND ART

LaLiga’s continued support of Future Champions connects fledgling stars with life-changing opportunity

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Top Spanish football division LaLiga remains unwavering in its commitment to football development in South Africa, forming strategic partnerships with provincial government, the South African Football Association (SAFA) and other sporting bodies to foster skills and provide local players with life-changing opportunities. Coming up shortly are three initiatives that LaLiga is proudly involved in and has supported for several years.

Future Champions Gauteng Cup

 The Future Champions Gauteng Cup took place 16 – 17 March at the WJ Clemments Stadium in Ekurhuleni. This key qualifying tournament saw the top four sides in the preliminary Gauteng Schools Cup compete against leading U17 academy teams, such as Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, for a spot in the prestigious Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament, happening at the end of March.

The decade-old Future Champions Gauteng Cup once again saw LaLiga working in conjunction with the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, the Gauteng Department of Education, SAFA Gauteng and Global Sports International to provide future football stars with a platform to showcase their skills. The tournament was not only attended by scouts from established, professional sides but it is also a powerful springboard for hopefuls wanting to be selected in the Gauteng Future Players talent search.

Larger than ever before, the 2019 Schools and Gauteng Cup was notable for the inclusion of women’s soccer, elevating the importance of the female game, and extending upliftment opportunities even further among disadvantaged youth. The tournament also included a key education component, with life skills courses presenting sport as a physically- and mentally-healthy alternative to tempting social ills.

Future Champions U17 International Tournament

Continuing its commitment to support young football talent globally, LaLiga is also involved in the Future Champions U17 International Tournament, now in its eleventh year. Taking place at the Nike Training Centre, Soweto, from 25 to 30 March, the prestigious 12-team event sees the best junior teams in the South African province (selected via the Future Champions preliminary tournaments) face top-performing squads from across the world.

The intention of the tournament is to prepare up-and-coming players for the demands of the professional arena, while sharing football culture and other experiences off the pitch.

The U17 squad of Spanish LaLiga side RCD Espanyol will be participating in the tournament this year alongside defending champions Club Brugge from Belgium, and teams from Russia, Mexico and India.

Gauteng Future Players

Open to all teenage players, Future Players is a long-running talent search that rewards standout young footballers and coaches with international sporting experience combined with a once-in-a-lifetime trip overseas. 2019 will be the fourth year LaLiga has partnered with the Gauteng Future Champions football development initiative and Gauteng Provincial Government to nurture and reward raw football talent in the province.

Supported by LaLiga, last year’s winners – four young Future Players selectees and 2018 Future Coach winner Andile Zulu of White City Spurs – travelled to Barcelona, Spain in September for an unforgettable mix of skills development at world-class club academies, first-hand exposure to the spectacle that is live LaLiga football and extensive Spanish cultural exposure. On the back of this professional and personal growth, these young men and women returned to South Africa ready to share new knowledge with their home clubs. The same players have since joined PSL development sides, while coach Zulu has been invited back to Spain to undergo further coaching courses.

The Future Players talent search has impacted over 75 000 teenage boys and girls since its inception. The project has produced notable successes including Banyana Banyana midfielder Refiloe Jane, who also plays for Canberra United in Australia.

Antonio Barradas, Managing Director of LaLiga South Africa, explains LaLiga’s vision. “We’re privileged to not only bring South African fans exciting and inspiring world-class football but also believe in consistently playing our part to grow the local game at a grassroots level.” He adds, “This positive, boundary-breaking combination of exposure and access is something LaLiga has been promoting for over a decade. We will continue to leverage our position through involvement in various initiatives to empower players and, by extension, communities.”

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