BRAZILIAN SIDE Flamengo will not only bring some Samba flair to this year’s Durban U19 International Football Tournament but also the burning ambition to become the second club from the South American country to lift the coveted junior title.
This year’s competition will be staged from July 27 to August 5 2017.
Flamengo are hoping to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Santos, who were the inaugural Durban U19 International Football Tournament winners in 2014.
There is no doubt that the team will be one to watch for Durban fans and the team to beat for opposition sides, who will get the ultimate test against the club from Rio de Janeiro.
One of the rarest gems in world football right now is 16-year-old Vinicius Junior, who has been refined through the Flamengo Academy and is tipped to go on and become one of the game’s greats having been described as the next “Neymar”.
His rich potential has already been spotted by Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have forked out a reported £35-million (approximately R600-million) to sign him, though he will only move to Spain after his 18th birthday.
He was spotted by Flamengo whilst playing in the streets his hometown Sao Goncalo and has been signed to the academy since the age of 10.
Like all their young stars, the club nurtured him in football and education, and he has now been rewarded with a magical move to Madrid. He will have been a teammate of many Flamengo players who will feature in Durban this year, and is living proof that skill, talent and determination can make dreams come true.
There will be other players of a similar ilk to Vinicius Junior on show at the tournament, not just within Flamengo, but all the sides on display.
In 2014, Benfica had young Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches in their squad that lost to Santos in the Durban finale.
He has since gone on to be a European Champion with Portugal last year, and claimed a German Bundesliga winners’ medal with new club Bayern Munich.
South Africa’s talented Thabo Cele, who was spotted playing for theKwaZulu-Natal Academy in the 2015 tournament and has recently signed a five-year contract with Benfica, setting him on the path to super stardom.
Cele was part of the recent South Africa squad that competed at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup along with fellow KwaZulu-Natal Academy graduate Sandile Mthethwa.
Brazilian football is going through a resurgence following the disappointment of missing out on the 2014 World Cup on home soil in 2014, with the country heading the latest FIFA World Rankings.
There is no doubt that there are some potential future Brazilian national team stars in the Flamengo side that will compete in Durban this year, offering an exciting glimpse into the future of that country’s football.
Looking back in history, some of the greatest stars to have ever played the game have represented Flamengo including Zico, Ronaldinho, Bebeto and Romario.
In fact, the mention of the name Flamengo in Brazil is almost equated to that of football royalty.
The team is the most popular club in Brazil, with close to 40-million supporters, and was voted by FIFA as one of the outstanding teams in the 20th century.
Other teams competing in the Durban U19 South African, KwaZulu-Natal Academy and Maritzburg United, Benfica (Portugal), Deportivo de La Coruña (Spain), ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast) and FC Midtjylland (Denmark).
Group A will this year be staged at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi, while Group B will be played at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont.
Moses Mabhida Stadium, will host the semi-finals, before the decider and third-place play-offs moves to back to King Zwelithini.
Aside from the Santos victory in 2014, English club Arsenal has claimed the last two titles in 2015 and 2016, but this year’s edition is assured of a new winner.