Gothia Cup: more than a football tournament

By Marcus Iredahl

On the 15th of July, the 44th edition of Gothia Cup will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden. Throughout the years, almost a million players from 146 countries have participated in the tournament, a number no one could imagine when the tournament started in 1975. 

Organised by the professional football club BK Häcken, it is considered the largest tournament in the world in terms of participating teams and the biggest annual event in Sweden. 

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What makes the tournament so unique is the integration of the different teams from all over the world. Gothia Cup acts as a place where the all nationalities, cultures and religions comes together celebrating the beautiful game. 

Two concepts that made the Gothia Cup stand out in the mid 1970s, was that the tournament’s main concept was to invite teams outside Sweden as well as let girls play in their own class. 

The 2018 edition, will host 1730 teams from 78 different nations with a total of 4386 matches to be played. "One of the best footballing experiences of my life and something that will stay in my and the player’s memories forever…’’ says two-time participant for Arsenal Soccer Schools Hampshire Andy Vertannes. Going once as MD and as Head Coach, Andy only had positive statements about the tournament. He was fascinated how a whole city can unite with a youth tournament producing a truly unique and special experience. 

The highlight of the week for many is the opening ceremony located in the Nya Ullevi Stadion which is the second biggest Stadium in Sweden. The ceremony is like the official Olympic Ceremony with presentations of all participating nations accompanied with musical and dance displays. 

Gothia Cup Hall of Fame: 

The opening ceremony makes all participants feel like they are professional athletes representing their nations. Playing in Gothia Cup could be a step towards a professional football career. There has been plenty of former Gothia Cup participants who has gone and represent their respective national teams.

The 1984 participants, Tahuichi from Bolivia, is considered the most successful team in Gothia Cup history as 8 players from there team was representing Bolivia ten years later in the 1994 World Cup. Top 5 most notable players include:

  1. Alan Shearer who played with Wellington Juniors
  2. Xabi Alonso who played with Antiguoko
  3. Andrea Pirlo who played with US Voluntas 
  4. Emmanuel Adebayor who played with Les Eperviers
  5. Zé Roberto who played with Pequeninos do Jockey

’’The tournament allows for teams of all levels which is what makes it special. I have no doubt that in years to come, more world famous names will be added to that list" says Andy Vertannes. 

An economic success: 

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Gothia Cup’s organizations is nothing less than fantastic. Matches, arrangements of all the teams and other factors that is needed for such a massive event, has been praised from participants, spectators and journalists alike. 

Economically the Gothia Cup week has been very successful. Last year, the tournament generated 50 million euros in tourism alone for the Swedish economy. When talking to Director of Sales, Thomas Andersson, he mentioned that because of Gothia Cup status as a ‘meeting place of the world’ they are able to attract big sponsors.

Andersson continues by explaining that this economically positive relationship between Gothia Cup and sponsors goes both ways. Companies can only benefit from displaying their products in a market that has such a wide age span and boys and girls from all corners of the world. 

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Hence, the Gothia Cup is a suitable week for start-up companies to showcase their product. Companies could help the organization for example by making it smoother and comfortable for participants and parents. Sending children abroad can be an uncomfortable experience for parents.

With the TAGPAY product for example, parent’s minds can be put at ease as they can follow their kid’s activity screen. It will be beneficial for the coaches as well, as they will have all their player’s medical information and payments for registration, accommodation and food can all be paid through the TAGPAY app. 

However, the economical benefits for General Secretary of Gothia Cup, Dennis Andersson, are being overshadowed, by the values of integration. He has stated that one of the driving forces behind Gothia Cup is that the tournament serves as proof that people from over 80 nations can come together, live, learn and develop from each other.

Problems in the past:

In 2016, an international team was disqualified after they were accused of groping three 16-year-old girls at the opening ceremony. Gothia Cup responded to this issue by launching Respect Every Body campaign in 2017.

This campaign, cooperated with the Locker Room Talk platform, will involve all the participating boys team between the age 11-14. They will get the opportunity to take part of the Locker Room Talks training in order to create respectable attitudes inside and outsider the locker room.

Andersson does recognize that there will never be a year without it’s incidents. He refuses, however, to blame this on the diversity of the tournament but rather on problems that exists in every day life.

Andy Vertannes explained that the few problems he experienced was ‘’a real shame as the 0.5% can have such a negative impact. Goes to show what an important role the coaches from each team have. It is a tiring 24-7 operation but if carried out in the right way, those memories last a life time’’

More than a tournament: 

Andersson wants Gothia Cup to become even bigger, as he recognises the tournament’s potential for individuals to get knowledge about cultures and people all over the world. 

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Hence, Gothia Cup is as much about football as it is about integration, helping youth and society improving.

The significance beyond the football field can be seen through the schools in the Congo, Kim Källström Trophy and the Meet the World tournament. 

Schools in Congo-Brazzaville: 

The idea that the Gothia Cup brand should broaden their organisation outside Gothenburg came in the late 1990s. Determined to improve children’s rights and opportunities, Gothia Cup built a football facility in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.

The facility had over 1000 students participating in not only football but in social activities educating the students about different moral values and how to prevent HIV/AIDS. 

Image result for gothia cup foundation Schools in Congo-Brazzaville

Ten years later, the Gothia Cup foundation collaborated with the former Swedish Mission Church to form a similar school in Congo-Brazzaville. Congo-Brazzaville is still struggling with its reconstruction after two civil war during the 1990s.

The school acts like a space for children with different ethnic background to meet and socialise. Maturing and developing as humans with good values is the aim of the social classes that the school has. It offers the children a space beyond conflicts and civil wars. 

Meet the World Tournament: 

Gothia Cup started the Meet the World tournaments in 2007 whom are sponsored by the Swedish manufacturing company, SKF. The program gives children, whom could not afford to travel to Sweden, the opportunity to play in the Gothia Cup. These tournaments are all about inspiration as it aims to create a chance for children to experience new cultures and meet individuals whom share the same passion and dreams.  

Kim Källström Trophy:

Former Swedish international, Kim Källström, cooperated with Gothia Cup to create a football tournament for mentally disabled people. Inspired by his grandma, whom worked with kids with intellectual disabilities, Kim knew the unique opportunities football can offer a part of society who does not get many chances to compete in events like these. The main idea of the whole trophy is the fact that everyone should be able to play and everyone is welcome. 

Image result for gothia cup foundation Kim Källström Trophy:

Gothia Cup is an event that is more than just a normal football tournament. It is an event where Australian children can play against teams from Sweden, Hungary, Brazil and the United States. It’s an event where teams from poor nations, or individuals with disabilities can participate.

When asked what the rest of the world can learn from Gothia Cup, Andy Vertannes answer was clear:

"We are one! - It matters not about where you are from (country or class), what your beliefs are or your age and experience, we can all come together as one and have a great time together" 

The first games in the Gothia Cup kicks off at the 16th of July, and for most teams it doesn’t matter who wins, as being apart of it is a victory in itself. 

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