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New competitions, cultures and connections: First UEFA Friendship Tournaments take place


The inaugural UEFA Friendship Tournaments brought together talented young male and female players from across the world to form new communities and gain invaluable experience of international football.

USA and Paraguay shake hands after the final of the Under-16 girls' UEFA Friendship Tournament
USA and Paraguay shake hands after the final of the Under-16 girls' UEFA Friendship Tournament

Sixteen teams of young footballers gathered in Türkiye recently for the first two UEFA Friendship Tournaments, a new competition concept involving youth international teams from all over the globe coming together to compete.

The Friendship Tournaments aim to provide young players – many of whom have never played at this level or even been abroad – with fresh opportunities to gain exposure to international football. In doing so, UEFA is hoping to help players not only develop their technical skills, but also broaden their horizons, experience new cultures and make lifelong friendships.

"Football brings a lot of people together. This is what I experienced from the UEFA Friendship Tournament. We learnt new cultures and new languages, and we met new friends."

Seabe Thelo, Botswana Under-16 girls' vice-captain

Eight teams representing five football confederations played across both the girls’ Under-16 and boys' Under-18 Friendship Tournaments held in Riva and Side in Türkiye over the past four weeks.

More than a game

To encourage off-pitch development, matchdays were interspersed with cultural sessions and tours. The awards ceremonies were followed by informal group dinners, where the teams gathered to celebrate and reflect on their experiences.

"The interaction off the pitch has been key, experiencing different ways of life and stepping outside of our comfort zone. The tournament has exposed our players to different cultures, different styles of football and different experiences both on and off the pitch, which are invaluable for players’ development – both in football and holistically."

 Peter Wilson, Wales Under-16 girls' head coach

"The UEFA Friendship Tournament was an incredible experience for our players and delegation," said Daniel Gamba, the USA’s under-16 girls’ team manager. "It allowed us to compete with a diverse, worldwide talent pool of players, fostering growth, camaraderie and a strong passion for the game."

That camaraderie was illustrated by the growing sense of community during the course of the tournaments, with teams and players growing increasingly confident in interacting and sharing their experiences.

Encouraging technical development

The UEFA Friendship Tournaments offer players a rare opportunity to gain exposure to different playing styles and teams from other football confederations and are a development opportunity for coaches and referees too.

To facilitate knowledge sharing, UEFA also appointed technical observers for the tournaments, whose role was to share analysis and insights with the coaching teams.

"The technical observers were so good to us," says Jaqueline Gaobinelwe, the Botswana Under-16 girls’ head coach. "After each and every game, they’d come to us and tell us how our games were, how our players played. That has been very useful to us."

Dedicated technical reports will be written for each tournament, providing detailed analysis for both the participating teams and others to learn from and further develop their technical understanding.

How the UEFA Friendship Tournament works

Each tournament comprised two groups of four teams. Round robins were followed by play-offs between the two groups to determine the final tournament positions, with the first-place team in group A playing first-place team in group B and so on.

UEFA covered the costs of the teams’ accommodation and food, plus access to meeting, kit and medical rooms and training facilities. The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) played an invaluable role as host, providing accommodation, match and training venues, appointing referees and organising transport for teams and officials.

With the first editions proving a huge success, it is hoped that the Friendship Tournaments will now become annual events.

"For us, as Botswana, it’s an honour to be here," said Seabe Thelo. "It’s been a pleasure, and we’d like to experience it again."

Girls' Under-16 UEFA Friendship Tournament 2024

When: 9–19 April 2024

Where: Riva, Türkiye

Group A: Botswana, Türkiye, USA, Vietnam

Group B: China, Paraguay, Uganda, Wales


Final: USA 0-0 Paraguay (4-2 pens)

Third-place play-off: Türkiye 0-1 China

Fifth place play-off: Wales 1-1 Vietnam (3-4 pens)

Seventh place play-off: Botswana 2-3 Uganda

Boys' Under-18 UEFA Friendship Tournament 2024

When: 20 April – 1 May

Where: Side, Türkiye

Group A: Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Mali

Group B: Morocco, Slovakia, Guatemala, Ecuador


Final: Mali 4-0 Slovakia

Third-place play-off: Türkiye 1-0 Morocco

Fifth place play-off: Saudi Arabia 2-4 Guatemala

Seventh place play-off: Jamaica 2-1 Ecuador

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