A highlight of every UEFA Champions Festival is UEFA's Young Champions Tournament and this year's competition was no exception with the four winning teams getting the chance to witness FC Barcelona's masterclass against Manchester United FC at Wembley on Saturday.
The UEFA Young Champions Tournament was conceived in 2002 when the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) together with a collection of schools in Glasgow had the idea of holding a mini-tournament for youngsters within the context of the UEFA Champions League final. Consequently UEFA, in cooperation with adidas, organised the first such event for 27 schools in the week of the 2002 final at Hampden Park.
As a five-a-side competition, this year's tournament in London's Hyde Park involved 32 teams and a total of 244 children aged between 11 and 16. All the teams had qualified from regional preliminaries which began in six areas of the UK in March. "It's not about winning, it's about respect," adidas' senior manager of UEFA affairs, Eric Vlieg, told UEFA.com. "There is the social aspect, the competition against each other and the chance to play in this great environment."
The four categories of competition took place over Thursday and Friday at the UEFA Champions Festival site, with preliminary round matches lasting five minutes and the semi-finals and finals comprising 15-minute games. The first day went well for fans of Chelsea FC with the girls' Under-12 final being an all-Chelsea affair as Chelsea FC 1 got the better of Chelsea FC 2 2-0. In the boys' U12 section, AC Chelsea lost 3-1 to Sportsfusion Development Center.
On Friday the U14 and U16 tournaments concluded: Westward Boys took the U14 title, overcoming Locomotive 4-2, while Elite Pro Sports FC edged a seven-goal thriller to claim the U16 crown, beating Antalyaspor UK FC 4-3. Friday's prizes were presented by UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh.
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