For the first time this year the tournament will feature teams from the African continent with TP Mazembe from Democratic Republic of Congo joining South Africa’s Lamontville Golden Arrows, defending champions champions Arsenal FC from England, Scotland’s Rangers FC, Sporting Lisbon from Portugal and Fluminense from Brazil. The South African Under 19 National Team and KZN Academy complete the eight teams in the tournament.
Speaking on behalf of the Mayor James Nxumalo, Councillor Dumisani Ngema said the City of Durban was delighted to host the 3rd instalment of this tournament which has grown popular among the participating nations around the globe.
“While the tournament provides a great platform to develop our youth in the sport of football, it is also exciting that from this competition projects that will sustain soccer will be built. Part of the role of this International Under 19 Tournament is to fundraise for the development of an international training centre. The building of this international training centre, by the Hoy Park Management, is now imminent following the completion of a public consultation process,” said Ngema.
KZN Department of Sport and Recreation Chief Director, Vijay Balram, said the performance of the KZN Academy team during last year’s tournament is the demonstration that the Province has potential to produce quality players who can compete against the best in the world.
“The Department has been a partner in this project for the past three years and we see this as a perfect vehicle to harness talent through a proper developmental pathway. Through this tournament local players receive invaluable experience by competing against players who are trained in some of the best academies in the world. It is only by exposing our players to international competition at a young age that we can succeed in our quest for our Province to regain its glory as the main suppliers of talent for the Premiership and senior national team,” said Balram.
Reacting to the draw, member of the South African Football Association (Safa) national executive committee, Kwenza Ngwenya said that the annual Durban U19 International Football Tournament has become one of the main highlights in the South African football calendar.
“The tournament is making a positive and telling contribution in our football. Since its inception, it has helped the country and SAFA in particular in unearthing some promising talent which are the future stars for our country. We urge all the communities in KwaZulu-Natal to support this great international development event.”
Luiz Felipe Santos, the Head Coach of the Brazilian side Fluminense FC said that the opportunity to confront different football schools in a tournament that is well organized will be very important for the development of their players.
“I have no doubt that it will be a great experience for our entire delegation. We look forward to arrive in the beautiful City of Durban and play the tournament,” said the excited Santos.
“We are excited and looking forward to playing against some of the world’s best youth teams, visiting South Africa and in particular Durban. The cultural experience will benefit our players as much as the football and we are pleased that we will visit some of the local villages and undertake some coaching sessions for some of the local kids,” said Craig Mulholland, Rangers FC Head of Academy.
South African Under 19 National Team Head Coach, Thabo Senong, said the tournament will again expose his boys to local and international scouts.
“It will also fast track the players’ levels of competition. We have players like Fagrie Lakay and Nkanyiso Zungu playing in the Professional Leagues now who got the exposure through participating in the tournament,” he said.
Mandla Ncikazi of Lamontville Golden Arrows is excited about taking part in this international tournament.
“It’s a great platform for our young players to gain the experience of playing at this high level of football. It also offers the players the opportunity to compete with their peers from other continents, learn and improve their game,” he said
Having been thrown in the deep end in the first year in 2014 where the KZN Academy faced European giants, AS Roma, Benfica and Boca Juniors, the Team fought hard, but the bridge was too far.
Academy Head Coach Bongani Yengwa said that last year the Team fought gallantly in a tough group featuring eventual finalists, PSV Eindhoven and winners Arsenal, as well as Celtic FC, amassing four points (missing out on a semi-final berth on goal difference).
“We look forward to the challenge and the Team has demonstrated a steady progress. The main focus in this 3rd edition is to make sure that the Team progress to the semi-final stage,” he said.
KZN Academy, Golden Arrows, Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon.
SA U19, TP Mazembe, Rangers FC and Fluminense.
Group matches will be played at King Zwelithini and Sugar Ray Xulu Stadiums, semi-finals at Moses Mabhida Stadium and the final at King Zwelithini Stadium.
The tournament takes place from 28 July to 06 August.