Senegal’s Academie Generation Foot have received a first-ever invitation to participate in BStars/Fifa Youth Cup in Zurich, one of world football’s most prestigious youth tournaments, which gets under way next week
They become only the eighth African side to be invited to compete in the only youth club tournament that world football’s governing body host and follow in the footsteps of Al Ahly (Egypt), Asante Kotoko, FC Nania and Mysterious Dwarfs of Ghana; Abuja Unity Boys (Nigeria), TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kaizer Chiefs, who competed in 2010.
Academie Generation Foot have been drawn in Group A and will compete against France’s Olympique Marseille and two Swiss clubs, FC Basle and FC Zürich. The Senegalese start on Wednesday against Basle.
The other group is made up of Liverpool, Grasshoppers Zürich, Corinthians from Brazil and the hosts, Blue Stars Zürich.
The top two teams from each section progress to the last four. The two semifinal winners will then contest the final, with the losing teams doing battle in the playoff for third place.
The sides that finish third in the groups will take on one another, while the teams which finish bottom of each group will do the same.
The Blue Stars/Fifa Youth Cup is an international Under-19 tournament has been held without interruption – with the exceptions of 2020 and 2021 when Covid-19 struck– since 1939.
An invitation is highly sought after as most of world’s leading clubs have sent their juniors to participate and Manchester United, with 18 tournament successes, are the most successful in the event’s history.
AC Milan, AS Roma, Barcelona, Arsenal, São Paulo and Boca Juniors have all won more than once, and the tournament has been a stage for many players who have gone onto stardom. It is not surprising that the slogan of the tournament is ‘Where Stars Are Born’.
In 1954, the victorious Manchester United team contained some of the finest young footballing talents ever assembled: Duncan Edwards, Bill Whelan, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Albert Scanlon, Bobby Charlton and Wilf McGuinness, who all went on to play for their countries. Tragically, Edwards, Whelan, Pegg and Colman lost their lives in the infamous 1958 Munich air crash. Bobby Charlton returned to Zurich to contest the 1959 edition of the Blue Stars tournament.
Later, George Best played in Zurich with Manchester United and in more recent times David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville
Fifa assumed patronage of the tournament in 1991, and in 2000, São Paulo became the first non-European winner of the tournament, defeating FC Zurich on penalties in the final in front of a passionate 11 000 crowd at the Letzigrund. Kaka was in the squad then but injured.
Chiefs drew with Basle, but lost to Blue Stars, Grasshoppers and Spain’s Mallorca when they competed 13 years ago, with Fani Madida as their coach.