Organisers hope Dubai's Mina Cup will become one of world's leading youth football tournaments

Organisers hope Dubai's Mina Cup will become one of world's leading youth football tournaments
Organisers hope Dubai's Mina Cup will become one of world's leading youth football tournaments

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Dubai is set to next year host what organisers envisage will become one of the leading youth football tournaments in the world.

Launched by long-time, Dubai-based coach Chris Brown, the Mina Cup will take place at the JA Sports Centre and Shooting Club from late March, and aims to attract a wealth of high-profile clubs from throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The competition, which runs March 28-30 and April 1-3, will comprise of 64 teams in all, from Under-12s up to U18s. The tournament stipulates that half of its participating sides should come from within the Middle East.

Thus far, Brown has official written interest from the likes of Leicester City, PSV Eindhoven, Club Brugge, Middlesbrough, Stoke City and Rangers, while English champions Liverpool have expressed a willingness to attend.

A number of professional clubs and privately run teams from Asia, including those in China, Japan and South Korea, have also been approached, with sides from Gambia and Nigeria already confirmed.

Brown has spoken to the UAE's Al Wahda and Sharjah and plans to reach out to more clubs and private academies in the Emirates. He has contacted teams too in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“The tournament’s been a long-term aspiration of mine and stems completely from my experiences as a young player and as a coach," Brown said.

“When you look at the Milk Cup, the Gothia Cup, the Dallas Cup and other quality tournaments around the world, you’ve had players compete in those who’ve gone on to have great careers. And I’m sure if you speak to them, they view those tournaments as a vital part of their development.

“The facilities here, the hotels, the experiences we can offer kids here, it’s a no-brainer that we should have a tournament that’s held in the highest regard as well. And you need to give the local communities the opportunity to play against world-renowned teams.

“The real USP behind this is to actually guarantee the local clubs – UAE and the Middle East – opportunities against the best teams in the world while adding a real international flavour to it also."

Such has been the level of interest, Brown expects to have the tournament's 64 slots filled by the end of September. He has not been surprised by the quick response, given the global pandemic has deprived teams of the chance to compete internationally.

“Clubs won’t have travelled for 18 months, possibly longer, so they’re massively enthusiastic about coming over,” Brown said.

“Private academies and clubs are dying to play football in a tournament setting and they know how well Dubai has managed the Covid-19 situation, so they’re happy to come participate, in line with any safety restrictions.

There's a huge amount of interest there because these teams have been starved of football."

Looking beyond the Mina Cup’s debut next year, Brown said: “The ultimate goal would be to extend to every age group, have the female game represented and branch out to other venues, be that inside and outside the UAE.

“I want a tournament that’s quality, encompasses both the male and female side of the game, brings across the best teams, and puts this place on the map to be regarded as the best youth tournament in the world. Not the biggest, but the best.

"I want to create memories and build a tournament that’s here in 25 years where, some of the players who’ve played in it have gone on to have great careers and can actually be an ambassador for not only the Mina Cup, but this country as well."

Updated: September 1, 2020 08:11 AM

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