LOCAL junior football institution, Friendly Academy is set to play relegated English Premier League side Newcastle United’s juniors when they compete in this year’s edition of the prestigious Youdan Trophy to be staged in Sheffield in August.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
A draw conducted by Celtic legend John Hartson at the National Football Museum in Manchester on Thursday last week pitted the Friendly Academy Under-16 side against English teams, Newcastle United, Charlton Athletic and Seattle Sounders from the United States in Group 2.
The international youth tournament, which has attracted 32 teams from several countries including Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, USA, Scotland and Zimbabwe among others, will begin on August 1 and will end on August 5.
One of Friendly Academy directors, Richard Solobala was excited at the prospect of playing against top football sides.
“We thank God he has taken us this far. It has always been our dream to be one of the best football academies in Zimbabwe and in Africa and this is evidence that we are on the right track,” Solobala said in an interview with Standardsport.
“We are also excited about giving our young players an opportunity to play at a top level and possibly be scouted into top international academies. And on our part, we could strike big partnerships with those academies that could help us in the long run,” he added.
The Youdan Trophy was initially staged in 1867, making it the oldest football cup competition in the world, predating the FA Cup by four years. It was re-created into youth format last season.
Solobola took the opportunity to appeal to the corporate world for assistance in making the trip a success.
“We need about $20 000 for air tickets. We also need properly branded kits since we will be representing the country, among other things,” he said.
The academy, which was founded in 2012 participated at FC Florida Invitational tournament in the US last year.
The 2016 Youdan Trophy Under 16 Tournament draw
Group 1: Derby County, Sheffield United, FC Basel (Switzerland), JHR Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Group 2: Newcastle United, Charlton Athletic, Seattle Sounders (USA), Friendly Academy (Zimbabwe)
Group 3: Celtic (Scotland), Sheffield Wednesday, Royal Antwerp (Canada), Eko Future Stars (Nigeria)
Group 4: Wolves, Queens Parks Rangers, Rosenborg (Denmark), Maiden City