Posted on Wednesday, 24th March 2010 by Chudi
United’s U18s will return to northern Italy early next month to defend the Torneo di Calcio Memorial Claudio Sassi, but the club won’t be taking part in the annual FIFA Blue Stars Youth Cup in Switzerland this May.
The Memorial Claudio Sassi is held in the Northern Italian province of Modena and was originally established in 1991 as the Torneo Internazionale di Calcio Giovanile Enzo Ferrari, in honour of the legendary racing driver and founder of Ferrari, who hailed from the city of Modena. When the Ferrari family decided to withdraw permission to name the tournament after the late Enzo in 1998, the tournament was renamed as a tribute to local entrepeneur Claudio Sassi, who had passed away the previous year. Sassi was heavily involved in football throughout his life, both as a promising player in his youth and as president of U.S. Sassuolo, one of the tournament’s host sides (the other being Modena F.C.).
Now in it’s twentieth year, the tournament spans four days (this year between the 2nd and 5th of April) and features 72 teams playing across five age groups – Under 10, Under 12, Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18. Nearly 1300 players will participate in 114 games held in 25 venues throughout the province of Modena, with the opening three days featuring group games and semi-finals and the last day featuring all five finals. The blue-riband Under 18 competition regular features some of the biggest names from Italy and across Europe, with last year’s final – when United pipped Dutch giants Ajax to the title thanks to a last minute goal from Ryan Tunnicliffe – providing a handy example.
The Reds will compete in the U18 category again this season, with presumably both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul McGuinness sharing managerial responsibilities, if last year is anything to go on anyway. They will be able to name a squad of 18, for which players must be at least 16 years old AND born after the 1st January 1991 to be eligible to play – although teams are allowed to include three ‘over-age’ players born in 1989 or 1990. Each game is 70 minutes long, with 35 minute halves and a ten minute interval. Coaches are allowed to use all seven available substitutes in matches, which offers a great opportunity to involve the whole squad in the proceedings and get all 18 players some match practice and tournament experience.
Eight teams will compete for the U18 title, initially divided into two groups of four. The top two in each group proceed to the semi-finals, with the winners of those matches obviously meeting in the final. United have been drawn in Group B, alongside Danish side OB Odense, co-hosts Modena and local outfit Virtus Castelfranco, while Group A features Serie A superpower Juventus, along with fellow top tier side Bologna, other co-hosts Sassuolo and Swiss representation from FC Chiasso.
United’s group schedule looks like this:
vs OB Odense (2/4/10, 20:45) at Ferrari G., Fiorano
vs U.S. Sassuolo (3/4/10, 16:45) at Ricci, Sassuolo
vs Virtus Castelfranco (4/4/10, 10:45) at Ferrarini, Castelfranco
If the Reds finish in the top two and progress to the semi-finals, they will play again at 17:30 on the 4th – either at the Ricci in Sassuolo if they win the group or back at the Ferrarini in Castelfranco if they finish second. Should we reach the final, that will be held at 17:30 on the 5th at the Dino Ferrari in Maranello.
The official tournament site has full details of this year’s event, as well as United’s triumph in 2009, but if you don’t speak Italian, it might be a bit of a struggle. Never fear though, we’ll have full coverage of the young Reds’ progress on the blog and on our Twitter page. MUTV were on hand to record proceedings last year and aired an excellent review of the competition a few weeks later, so hopefully we can look forward to the same thing this time around.
On the flip side, United won’t this year be competing at the FIFA Blue Stars Youth Cup this May. The Reds have participated in the event for five of the last six years (2007 being the exception) but won’t be returning to Switzerland for the 2010 tournament. The lineup for this year’s competition features Boca Juniors, Kaizer Chiefs, Mallorca, FC Basel, Grasshoppers, Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, Club America, FC Zurich and hosts FC Blue Stars.
A couple of other pieces of tournament-related news: unsurprisingly, United are confirmed entrants for the 2010 Northern Ireland Milk Cup, which this year sees the finals move from Coleraine to Ballymena. Meanwhile, the club’s U12s will later this month be competing at the Mediterranean International Cup in Barcelona.