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Universidad Catolica Crowned 2012 Manchester United Premier Cup Champions in Shanghai

Shanghai Stadium, Wednesday July 25th– Universidad de Catolica are 2012 Manchester United Premier Cup champions after a 2-1 victory over Gamba Osaka and an outstanding week of U15 football that hosted 20 of the best youth teams and players in the world.

The final match of a tournament which has involved over 8,000 teams from 40 countries reached its’ conclusion Wednesday evening  in a curtain raiser to the Shanghai Shenhua –v- Manchester United match.

Gamba Osaka was a dominant force in the tournament, beating Santos FC (in pitcture) in the semifinal and losing out to Catolica in the last 10 minutes.

Universidad Catolica’s 19,000Km journey from Santiago to Shanghai was one of the furthest of the 20 qualified teams, but it was surely worth the trip for the would-be champions. Gamba Osaka, who defeated tournament favorites Santos FC and golden boot winner Sampaio 1-0 in the semi final, took an early lead over Catolica and looked dominant for much of the final match. However, the last ten minutes proved decisive as Catolica capitalized twice late on to be crowned U15 MUPC world champions.

After the victory Catolica coach Miguel Avilles stated, “This has been a really big experience in [the players] lives. Playing teams from all around the world is a joy, a dream come true for them. It has been a learning experience for the coaching staff too – hearing about different ways of doing things from some of the best youth development staff around…We have all learned so much and will remember this moment- and this whole tournament – for a very long time.”

Catolica forward heads the winner in the last minute of regulation time in the final match in Shanghai Stadium.

For some of the players it will be the biggest match of the their football careers., For others it is just the beginning. As U15 ‘elites’ many of the youngsters will be looking to make the transition from grassroots to professional in the next three years.  They’ll be inspired by the long list of former MUPC graduates who have continued on to football greatness. In 20 years of competition the tournament has enjoyed the likes of Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid), Robinho (Santos FC), Theo Walcott (Southamptom), Alexis Sanchez (Colocolo), Iniesta (Barcelona FC), just to name a few.

For Nike, who has been organizing the tournament since 1993, there are some noticeable signs in the ‘global shift’ of youth football. Craig Cheek, VP of Nike Greater China, said, “The Asian teams are harder to beat. Europeans and South Americans no longer expect victories over Asian teams. Even Australia and the US are not making so much progress.” Testament to this is Gamba Osaka’s 2nd place finish and inspirational play throughout the tournament. Furthermore FC Pohang Steelers of Korea and Bangkok Christian College of Thailand finished 8th and 10th respectively. Bangkok CC’s Korayok was even named tournament MVP. Chinese sides Hubei and Shanghai (both represented respecitive city FA’s) were 12th and 17th.

South American youth football powerhouses Boca Juniors and Santos FC face off in the group stages.

This was the first time mainland China hosted the tournament (2005 in Hong Kong) and the  grassroots football milestone on Chinese soil shows how Nike and the CFA aim to tap into the massive football potential in the middle kingdom. Tournament organizers stated their appreciation and satisfaction with the host facilities (Shenhua FC training grounds) and the hospitality shown by staff and local Shanghainese during their time in China.

One can only speculate if the next Messi, Iniesta, or Drogba was playing in this tournament. And greater speculation is to when a Chinese team will reach the final match or finish in the top half of the table.

Final Standings

1 Universidad Catolica (Chile)

2 Gamba Osaka (Japan)

3 Santos (Brazil)

4 Inter (Italy)

5 Boca Juniors (Argentina)

6 Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

7 FC Pachuca (Mexico)

8 FC Pohang Steelers (Korea)

9 Bursaspor SK (Turkey)

10 Bangkok CC (Thailand)

11Athletic Club (Spain)

12 Shanghai FA (China)

13 Celtic FC (Scotland)

14Ajax Cape Town (South Africa)

15 Esperance (Tunisia)

16VfL Bochum (Germany)

17 Hubei FA (China)

18 Manchester United (England)

19 Vardar SC (USA)

20 Keilor Park (Australia)

Trevor has always been a student of the game, thus becoming a teacher and ambassador for the sport was only natural. In 2010 he joined Sinobal Football Club in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, a grassroots football club founded in 1998. First starting as a player, then as a youth and first team assistant coach, now Trevor spends most of the time coordinating international projects with the club. These include school football co-op projects, China Grassroots Football Foundation in rural areas of China, Street Football, China Grassroots Football exhibition, and finding new opportunities/events to popularize, enhance, and project grassroots football in China. For WEF Trevor contributes primarily on happenings away from the CSL, where, arguably, Chinese football needs the most development. Although coverage on Hangzhou Greetown FC, a partner of Sinobal FC,is to be expected. If you are interested in contacting Trevor or finding out more about grassroots football in China contact trevor.lamb@sinobal.net.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Arxtor

    27/07/2012 at 19:42

    Great idea this tournament. I wish I had known of it before

  2. Carter

    28/07/2012 at 01:47

    WTF, how did i miss this tournament in China???

  3. Rovertlamb

    28/07/2012 at 12:52

    Nike does a great job organizing the tournament and supporting grassroots worldwide. However, because of several factors (I.e. protecting youth player identities) it is not open to public spectators. WEF just found out about it last week and attended as press.

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