Gothia Cup underway

World's largest youth soccer cup gets underway in Gothenburg

3:10 min

The world's largest youth soccer tournament, the Gothia Cup, is underway in Sweden's second city, Gothenburg. With 1,755 teams competing from all over the world, this year's event is set to be the biggest in its forty-year history. But there's more to this tournament than "just" football, as Radio Sweden's Nick Chipperfield explains.

With 1,755 child and youth teams, male and female, from some 80 countries all over the world, this year's Gothia Cup is the largest in the tournament's history.

This year, Germany is best represented with 130 teams, with England, Norway and the US also sending larger numbers of budding football stars.

But with teams from all over the world, the tournament is also intended to be a meeting place for young people from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and religions.

Dennis Andersson, general secretary of the Gothia Cup explains.

"The Gothia Cup is actually two things," he says. "What you first think of is the football tournament with all the matches and international teams playing against each other on the football field. But once you're here you realise that the Gothia Cup is so much more than that. It is also a meeting place where you make new contacts, learn from each other, from different cultures, religions and ways of life."

Andersson believes that it's these experiences which endure, rather than the matches themselves.

"You actually forget which matches you've won and lost; what stays with you is the memory of having learnt something," Andersson says.

One hundred more teams are competing this year than last, and the host city, Gothenburg, is bracing itself for 60,000 visitors during the week-long tournament, with players housed in local schools.

Started by the same local football club in 1975 which still runs the tournament today, organisers also run the Gothia Cup Foundation which provides funding for schools in Africa, holds mini-Gothia Cups in poorer countries around the world, and supports teams from poorer countries to participate in the Gothia Cup itself.

Lena Rönnefors, tournament director, adds that the Gothia Cup is a way for young people to meet and communicate in ways that would otherwise never happen, or perhaps only digitally on social media.

"In a globalised world, it's invaluable for young people to understand each other, to learn others' cultures, to understand that we're different and not to be afraid of those differences," says Rönnefors.

And what's the attraction for football-loving fans? Andersson again:

"I think people should come here to get a sense of what it would feel like to be a world citizen for a week," he says. "And you'll see a lot of great football as well."