One of the most prominent grassroots events in the Balkan region takes place this month with more than 1,700 children from Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia participating in the Gucha Trophy.
The 11th edition of the indoor five-a-side competition is played in the Moravica district of Serbia and involves teams ranging from Under-7 to U16. The best 22 teams in each age group came through a two-week qualifying process to reach the main event between 16 and 18 December which features over 600 players. Mixed teams of boys and girls take part in matches comprising two ten-minute halves in the qualifying rounds, leading to a final contested over two 15-minute periods.
"This tournament is designed to promote the game at its best," said the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) head of grassroots Igor Janković. "The main ingredients are entertainment and fun, not forgetting the good organisation and traditional hospitality of the people of Gucha.
"The Gucha Trophy is a unique opportunity to promote the most talented players and to affirm sportsmanship and fair play. In addition, a one-day seminar is being organised for all the coaches, providing an exchange of knowledge."
The tournament has been a stepping stone to bigger and better things for a number of youngsters who have gone on to represent well-known European clubs. Serbian internationals Miralem Sulejmani, Adem Ljajić and Ivan Obradović are just three of the players who have appeared in the event since it began in 2000.
To indicate how the tournament continues to grow, this year more than 150 teams were enlisted – a figure that was just 30 in the inaugural season. "The main goal of this eleventh edition of the Gucha Trophy is to preserve tradition and send a positive football message across the Balkans," Janković told UEFA.com.
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