Premier Cup: Top Twenty travel to Poland
Added: (Sat May 10 2008)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
TWENTY of the best under-15 football teams from across Europe will be gathering in Łódź, Poland next week, to compete in the Premier Cup European Qualification Tournament, sponsored by Nike. The teams will be playing to win one of three available places at the World Finals of the Manchester United Premier Cup in Manchester later this year.
Tournament hosts SMS Łódź will welcome the teams and special guests to the Opening Ceremony and Draw on Thursday 15 May at 1930hrs. Tournament matches are to be played at the SMS Łódź Training Centre from 16-18 May.
Over the past twelve months, more than 3,000 teams have fought their way through regional and national finals across the continent to earn their place in Łódź and the opportunity to compete against the very best under-15 teams in the world. The following teams have already qualified for the World Finals in August alongside the host team Manchester United.
Juventus FC (Italy), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Audax Italiano (Chile), Middlesbrough FC (UK) and Central United (New Zealand).
Over a million players have taken part in the Premier Cup since its inception, including some of the most celebrated young footballers in the world. Premier Cup graduates currently playing a starring role at the highest level for club and country include Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres and PFA Young Player of the Year Francesc Fabregas.
“Cesc” played alongside Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué for the FC Barcelona “Dream Team” in the 2002 Premier Cup and recalled:
"The Premier Cup is a good experience for all young players. It conditions you to play in a tournament at a high competitive level. At that age this can be a valuable experience that you can use later in your professional career."
Another up-coming young player Ismael Aissati, remembered the high level of competition he faced for the first time through his Premier Cup experience with PSV a year later.
“Although we didn’t progress to the World Finals, Premier Cup was a valuable experience for me. Not only did I improve my skills but it helped my attitude in becoming more professional at a very young age. When you are used to winning it hurts a lot when you lose, but it has to make you stronger. You think about what you could have done better and then work at it.”
This year’s qualifiers include many clubs famed for their youth development policy. Those who have already seen the positive impact of the Premier Cup experience on their young players are becoming increasingly determined to participate in this prestigious competition. Coaching staff from 2007 World finalists Krylia Sovetov (Russia) and FC Basel 1893 (Switzerland) are acutely aware of the particular demands of international competition, summarised by Basel Coach Marco Otero.
“It is not easy to transfer our playing culture to the highest level. Every game will be difficult and a new challenge”
Gençlerbirliği (Turkey) Felcsút SE – Puskás Academy (Hungary) and SMS ŁÓDŹ (Poland) are also well renowned for youth development. Coach Marcin Perlinski is hoping the host team can progress to the World Finals for a second time this year but knows the opposition will be tough.
“The teams we fear most are those from Portugal and the Netherlands, because of their technical ability of course, but also their imagination and flair.”
FC Nitra (Slovakia) and Vĺlerenga (Norway) are hoping their previous experience can help them reach the World Finals for the first time this year. FC Zagreb (Croatia) last went all the way in 2000; however, Zagreb Coach Alen Susnic is conscious of the fact that for many boys, this is their first time away from home.
“I believe that my boys have a real future in football. I hope that they can show that in Łódź, and are not too overwhelmed by the Premier Cup experience.”
2002 Premier Cup World Finalists Germinal Beerschot (Belgium) and FC Maribor (Slovenia) know from experience that it is essential to keep the boys focused over the course of the three day tournament. Coach Radovan Karanovič keeps the message simple:
“From the team we expect fair combative play and a serious approach to matches.”
Clubs reaching the European Qualifiers for the first time this year include Vejle Bold Klub (Denmark), Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Israel), FC Honka (Finland), Willem II (Netherlands), FK Liepājas Metalurgs (Baltics), CF Estrela da Amadora (Portugal) and FC Vysočina Jihlava (Czech Republic). Preparation for the challenges ahead is crucial as Czech Coach Pavel Tvarůžek admitted.
“This tournament will be the most important moment in the career of our team so far. To prepare for Łódź we travelled to another tournament in Austria in order to test ourselves”
Grassroots clubs qualifying for the European Qualifiers through their national tournaments have caused a few shocks this year. Big name teams have had to give way to the skills and passion of young players from clubs like BNZ Tirol (Austria), Vaksala SK (Sweden) and MKS Sagem Agrykola Warszawa (Poland), whose coach Krzysztof Tańczyński is more than a little apprehensive about the challenges ahead.
“We have absolutely no idea what will face us in Łódź, apart from a tough tournament with many matches to play in three days!”
Twenty young teams will be arriving in Poland next week ready, not only to fight for the title of European Premier Cup Champions and a place at the World Finals; but also to have fun, make friends and learn from each other whilst playing the game they love.
For more information & freely downloadable high resolution photos, please visit the dedicated media website:
Official Manchester United Premier Cup Website
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NOTE TO EDITORS
Premier Cup was developed by NIKE in 1993 as a grassroots tournament offering young players from diverse cultural and social backgrounds the opportunity to play at international level against the best teams in Europe. This regional tournament originally involving 624 clubs, evolved to become a world-wide event, with over 9,000 teams from more than 40 countries competing annually. In 2003, the competition was taken to new heights when Manchester United added their name to the biggest and best under-15 football tournament in the world, joining Nike in their quest to promote excellence in football.
2008 Premier Cup European Qualifiers
Austria BNZ Tirol
Baltics FK Liepājas Metalurgs
Belgium Germinal Beerschot
Croatia FC Zagreb
Czech Rep.FC Vysočina Jihlava
Denmark Vejle Bold Klub
Finland Honka FC
Hungary Felcsút SE– Puskás Academy
Israel Hapoel Tel Aviv
Netherlands Willem II
Poland Sagem Agrykola Warszawa
Portugal C.F. Estrela da Amadora
Russia Academy of Football named after Konoplev Y.P (Krylia Sovetov)
Slovakia FC Nitra
Slovenia FC Maribor
Sweden Vaksala SK
Switzerland FC Basel 1893
Host Team SMS Łódź