The Coppa Carnevale, the notable youth football tournament held in Viareggio, Italy, since 1948, has probably never been so international as it will be this year.
Despite the global recession, CGC Viareggio, the sports club who organises the tournament, has succeeded in guaranteeing 48 participating teams for the 65th edition, scheduled from 11 to 25 February.
Half of the clubs will come from foreign countries, with a massive presence from South America and two youth national teams from Congo and Libya. The other 24 will represent the elite of Italian football with the likes of Juventus, Milan and Inter to name but a few.
The draw for the group stages was completed this morning, just one month before the tournament kick-off, inside the local Comune. Reigning champions Juventus are in Group 1, together with Maribor, third-tier club Avellino and Apia Leichhardt Tigers, a Sydney-based club founded by the local community Italian emigrants.
Newcastle United are the only ones representing British football at the Coppa – they will face Serie A giants Milan, Empoli, who are considered one of the best academies in Italy, and the Congo Under-17 side.
The tournament has always nurtured brotherhood among countries throughout its 65 years of activity. CGC invited several clubs from Eastern Europe in the Cold War years, with Partizan Belgrade and, above all, Dukla Prague eventually triumphing.
Furthermore, it was in the 1970s when Beijing participated and became the first ever Chinese club to take part in a European football competition, and the 2002 edition, staged after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, featured teams from the USA, Israel and Palestine.
Beside that, many talents blossomed in Viareggio before making it in professional football. Manchester City's flamboyant striker Mario Balotelli triumphed with Inter in 2008 and current Serie A top scorers Edinson Cavani and Stephan El Shaarawy have shone at the tournament in the past.
The Final is scheduled for 25 February at the Stadio dei Pini, a small but prestigious venue surrounded by a verdant pine forest.
Reporting by: Simone Pierotti
Apia Leichhardt (Australia)
Nogoom El Mostakbal (Egypt)
Melbourne Phoenix (Australia)
Città di Marino
Deportes Concepción (Chile)
Libya Under-18 football team (Libya)
All Boys (Argentina)
Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Rappresentativa Serie D
CSNA Guayaquil (Ecuador)
Belasica Strumica (Fyrom)
Club Nacional (Paraguay)
Newcastle United (United Kingdom)
Congo Under-17 football team (Congo)
Honvéd Budapest (Hungary)
LIAC New York (USA)
Spartak Moscow (Russia)
NY Long Island (USA)
Red Star Belgrade (Serbia)
Mutual Uruguaya (Uruguay)