Wednesday 21 March 2018, 18:58

Over 75 years of stars, large and small

The 81st edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup takes place on 30 and 31 May 2019 in Zurich. Join as we cast an eye over the clubs, both well-known and slightly less familiar, that have marked the tournament’s long history.

Red Devils dominate, Grasshoppers trail behind Manchester United are the undisputed kings of the competition, having won the coveted trophy 18 times since 1939. The Red Devils won four titles in a row between 1959 and 1962, and have achieved back-to-back victories on five occasions, in 1968/69, 1975/76, 1981/82, and 2004/05. Their record is all the more remarkable considering their long absence from the competition between 1982 and 2004.

The second most successful side in the tournament’s history, albeit far behind United with seven wins, is Grasshopper Zurich. Grasshoppers won the inaugural edition of the competition in 1939 and have spread their subsequent titles over the years, with their most recent triumph coming in 2016.

Swiss success Behind Grasshoppers in the Swiss hall of fame are unlikely triple champions FC Young Fellows, who won the competition in 1941, 1942, and 1953 before ceasing to exist under that name in 1992.

Grasshoppers’ city rivals FC Zurich have lifted the trophy on five occasions in 1946, 1949, 2008, 2012, and 2013. FC Basel, meanwhile, won the competition twice in 1997 and 2009. Other Swiss champions include FC Oerlikon (1945) and FC Wintertur (1940), two clubs that have enjoyed little else in the way of international acclaim.

Barcelona lead overseas victors No other overseas club comes close to rivalling Manchester United’s 18 triumphs. Barcelona, who won three consecutive titles in 1993, 1994, and 1995, head up a chasing pack which features several well-known clubs with two titles each. They are: Boca Juniors (2002 and 2010); Spartak Moscow (1991 and 1992); AC Milan (1958 and 1977); Arsenal (1963 and 1964); Sao Paulo (1999 and 2000); Roma (1980 and 2003) and Austria Vienna (1947 and 1948).

Hosts well represented Clubs from Switzerland, the host nation, are of course far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of competition appearances. No fewer than 71 Swiss sides have competed for the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup down the years, including one or two that could be described fairly as ‘minnows’. Nordstern Basel, FC Toss, SC Wipkingen, CS Chenois, FC Solothurn, and FC Seefeld are a few of the lesser-known teams to have taken part.

Cosmopolitan line-up The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup has welcomed clubs from all over the world since its creation, and this remains one of its biggest draws. Over the years, the tournament has allowed fans to watch teams from far afield compete alongside established household names. Beijing Guoan FC (China PR), Nykobing (Denmark), FK Flamurtari (Kosovo), Vestfold FK (Norway), Hapoel Ramat Gan (Israel), FK Radnicki Kragujevac (Serbia), and WYNRS New Zealand (New Zealand) are just some of the more exotic names to have graced the competition.

Great football nations, unusual names Even the biggest football nations have produced the occasional surprise participant. German sides in this category have included FC Konstanz and Spandau Berlin, while the likes of AC Mantova, Fedit Roma, US Alessandria, Virtus Bolzano, and US Triestina have all flown the flag for Italy. The city of Strasbourg, meanwhile, has been represented by three different clubs since the competition's inception: AS Strasbourg, Auswahl Strasbourg, and Racing Strasbourg.

The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup has also introduced fans to previously unheralded clubs such as SER Caxias do Sul of Brazil and Belgian outfit Daring Brussels FC. But the most amusingly named team to have competed at the tournament is, without question, Mysterious Dwarfs FC of Ghana.