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FIFA U-17 World Cup: The Springboard For Future Stars

A lot of players who find success in the U-17 format have went on to make it big in their careers


Updated:September 24, 2017, 4:40 PM IST
FIFA U-17 World Cup: The Springboard For Future Stars
Representative Image.(Getty Images)
New Delhi: From the planet's costliest player Neymar to 'tiki-taka' kings Xavi and Iniesta to the ultimate sorcerer Ronaldinho, the FIFA Under-17 World Cup has been the cradle for many of world football's household names. India is hosting the 17th edition of the mega-event, the country's first-ever FIFA tournament, from October 6 to 28.

Before they mesmerised millions of fans of the beautiful game, many of them took the 'baby steps' to stardom by taking part in this tournament. Some of them — Ronaldinho, Iker Casillas, Xavi, Iniesta, Toni Kroos and Mario Goetz would go on to win the ultimate prize in world football — the FIFA World Cup.

Ronaldinho played exactly 20 years back in 1997 in Egypt winning the trophy for Brazil, the first FIFA U-17 World Cup triumph for the South American football powerhouse. Casillas took Spain to the semi-final of the same tournament. He was not the team's only star in the making, as Barcelona and La Roja ace Xavi was handling the playmaking duties.

Four years junior to Xavi, Iniesta was the midfield general of Spain in the 2001 edition of FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, along with Fernando Torres. Xavi and Iniesta later paired to mesmerise the world with their now-famous 'tiki-taka' football, forming the core of FC Barcelona and Spain midfield to help the two sides rule club and world football for several years.

Germany's Kroos and Goetz are two other names to have won both the FIFA U-17 and FIFA World Cup trophies. The nervous teenagers chasing their big and elusive dreams by appearing in the 'youngest' World Cup were Rahim Sterling, Memphis Depay, Giovani dos Santos, James Rodriguez, Alessandro Del Piero, Nwankwo Kanu, Landon Donovan, Cesc Fabregas, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso and Danny Welbeck.

All of 17, Neymar da Silva Santos Jr played in the 2009 edition and showed glimpses of his future stardom. He scored once — against Japan — but his country crashed out of the tournament at the group stage. Eight years later, he is the costliest footballer on the planet with Paris Saint Germain signing him for a jaw-dropping $263 million.

Brazilian icon Ronaldinho holds the unique feat of being the only player to have won both FIFA U-17 (1997) and FIFA World Cup (2002) title while Spaniard Casillas is the only one who has won the World Cup as a captain (2010). Ronaldinho spoke eloquently about the FIFA U-17 World Cup, terming it the "springboard" for future stars.

"The U-17 World Cup is a very special tournament for me. I was lucky enough not only to take part in the competition but to win it too. I can honestly say that it opened the door for my professional career," said Ronaldinho.

"The U-17 World Cup can be crucial for many players as it marks the start of their careers. Young players dream of making it big, and this competition gives them a fantastic opportunity to make that dream come true. It got my career off to a wonderful start and will always be close to my heart," added the man known for his remarkable dribbling skills.

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