The second installment of the Durban U19 International Football Tournament is at our doorstep and the teams to take part in this year’s tournament were announced at a media briefing held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The Participating Teams include the cream of European football in English giants Arsenal FC; the masters of football, AC Milan (Italy); current log leaders PSV Eindhoven (Holland); Galatasary (Turkey) and Celtic FC (Scotland). They will be joined by VfB Stuttgart (Germany). The home Teams, the KZN Academy X1 and the SAFA National U19 Team will keep the South African flying.

All teams have expressed excitement on their inclusion in the tournament and look forward to being in the beautiful City to experience the rich and diverse culture that this Province has to offer and showcase their footballing skills.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Head of Arsenal Academy Andries Jonker said: “We are delighted to be taking part in what is a prestigious pre-season tournament for Under 19s. It will give us a good test as we prepare for the new season and give the players some valuable experience.”

His sentiments were echoed by AC Milan’s Youth Sector Manager, Filippo Galli, who stated: “It’s a very important tournament in the international youth football an it will be an honor for us to participate. Doing this kind of experience abroad enriches young players not only in terms of football, but also human, allowing them to know different cultures. For our Under-19 team it will be an important opportunity to prepare in the right way for the new season in a test of such a high level.”

The tournament will take place in Durban from Wednesday, 29 July to Saturday, 8 August 2015. It is envisaged that the Opening matches will be played at Princess Magogo Stadium (KwaMashu) and Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium (Claremont), with the semi-finals at King Zwelithini Stadium (Umlazi) and the finals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup venue, Moses Mabhida Stadium (Durban Central).

The President of the South African Football Association, Dr Danny Jordaan said that the organisation is excited to be a part of the tournament as it falls in line with the their 2022 Vision of building competitive national teams that would see the country being in the top three in Africa and top twenty in the World. “The participation of our own SA U/19 National Team and the KZN Academy X1, ensures that our teams get much needed experience to compete against the best in the world. As we build towards the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, it is important that we support tournaments of this nature that give us a barometer of how competitive our teams are in international football.”

The Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Cllrs James Nxumalo said that tournaments of this nature are very significant as sports does not only promote economic development and a healthy lifestyle, but is also a catalyst for social cohesion. “Durban is known as Africa’s Playground and we have no doubt that the visiting teams will enjoy the warmth and hospitality of our beautiful City. This is an opportune time for all participating teams to learn from each other, share ideas and build lasting relations. We urge them to take full advantage of this opportunity and use to develop their skills, both on and off the field.”

The excitement around the Tournament is aptly captured by Stevie Frail, Celtic U19 Team Manager, who said: “We are really excited and honoured to be invited to play in the Durban U19 Tournament. As a club, we are invited to many quality International Tournaments but when the invitation to take part in this prestigious tournament arrived we had no hesitation in accepting the offer. We are all looking forward to not only the football but also the cultural side of the event and hopefully we will be able to visit lots of new and interesting places in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our young players and one not to be missed”.

To prepare for the tournament, various activations will be undertaken by the Local Organising Committee between now and July. At the top of the list is the preparation schedule of the home team, the KZN Academy X1 that includes the hosting of a Provincial Selection Tournament on 19 to 21 June 2015, and participation in the SAFA U19 National Championship to be held in the North West Provinc.