The 24th Canon Lion City Cup, which will be held from June 23 to July 1 this year, promises to be an exciting youth tournament, with Under-15 teams from Ajax Amsterdam, Boca Juniors, Manchester City and FC Porto taking on the Singapore national Under-15 and Under-16 teams.
“The Lion City Cup is the oldest youth tournament in the world,” said R Sasikumar, the group managing director of The Red Card, the tournament organiser.
“But when I speak to the clubs I also tell them that it is the best youth tournament in the world.”
The teams were selected from a list of what Sasikumar considers to be the “top 20 teams in the world” for youth football talent.
Zainudin Nordin, the president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), said that the tournament would be an excellent opportunity to expose the youth players in Singapore to the international market.
Last year’s Lion City Cup was broadcast to audiences across Europe through the Eurosport television channel.
“The exposure through the media broadcasts would allow [the youth players] to be seen elsewhere,” said Zainudin.
Canon Singapore, the title sponsor for the event, also announced that they were extending the sponsorship for the event till 2013.
Andrew Koh, the senior director and general manager for the Consumer Imaging & Information Division, said that the support was more than just “lending our name to the title”.
This year, 10 potential sports photographers from schools and junior colleges will be selected and will be mentored by a former photojournalist, and will also be given the opportunity to shoot during the tournament.
“We want to use sports as a platform to unite the people [and also support the FAS],” said Koh.
This year’s tournament features sides who are making their inaugural appearances for the Cup. When asked why defending champions Flamengo were not invited again, Sasikumar said that he had spoken to many fans and stakeholders who “want to see new teams”.
While last year’s tournament had its share of refereeing controversies, both Sasikumar and Zainudin said that they had acted on the feedback of the clubs who had participated and international referees would officiate key matches.
“We are very serious about the quality [of refereeing] of the tournament,” said Zainudin.
He also said that the FAS has been working closely with football associations around the region to improve the quality of officials in Singapore.
Zainudin also hopes that this tournament will allow youth talent that emerge to be groomed and eventually represent Singapore in the top competitions.