Young Champions make their mark

The Olympiastadion was the venue as German youngsters battled it out to be named UEFA Young Champions and win UEFA Champions League final tickets, in a tournament organised by adidas.

Almost 200 boys and girls took part in the matches at the Olympiastadion
Almost 200 boys and girls took part in the matches at the Olympiastadion ©

Over 190 youngsters have enjoyed the rare opportunity to play at Munich's Olympiastadion, as the finals of the UEFA Young Champions tournament took place amid summery conditions at the venue of Thursday night's UEFA Women's Champions League final.

Played across four mini-pitches at the historic stadium, boys and girls' teams competed in five-a-side matches over the course of the day for the chance to win tickets to Saturday's UEFA Champions League final and to be presented with commemorative diplomas by some of UEFA's star ambassadors.

"It was very exciting. Really exciting! To play in front of such big stands. Normally only the stars play here, and now it's us, so this is a real honour. It's really great," said one of the players from girls team TSV Hohenbruun.

"When you personally know that the Olympic Games took place here in 1972, as well as a lot of Bayern München matches in the Champions League, it's a great story for the girls to play here," added the team's coach Claus Ehrhardt about a venue which has also played host to three European Champion Clubs' Cup finals.

The finals of the adidas-organised competition were the conclusion of a tournament that began in February when teams from across Germany were invited to enter via the internet. A total of 672 children were then involved in a one-day qualification event held over Easter at FC Bayern München's training ground with the best eight Under-12, U14 and U16 boys sides and U14 girls' outfits making it through to the Olympiastadion finals.

Young Steinhöring, Blue Panther and Junglöwen were the boys' teams that were celebrating victory at the end of the finals, while Tonis Girls tasted success in the girls' category. All of the winners and runners-up received medals, a UEFA Young Champions diploma and an adidas gift bag presented by ambassadors Christian Karembeu, Celestine Babayaro, Cafu, Patrik Andersson and Jay-Jay Okocha.

"I wish I could be a kid again to have this kind of opportunity," Okocha told "I think it's very good because it inspires them and gives them something to look up to. Of course they should know that it's based on how well you know whether you have the opportunity to play at stadiums like that again, so I think it's very encouraging for the kids."

"It's difficult to find the words to explain how I would have felt as a kid to have had the opportunity to play in an event like this. It would have meant the world to me."

There can be little doubt that all of the participants enjoyed a day that they will never forget and that will have provided inspiration for many to follow their football dreams.

"Most certainly, because we have seen who has played here," said Andreas Peters, coach of the Ostler team. "We saw the pictures down there of Oliver Kahn and Bayern, and of course the boys want to get there as well."