After a year full of promise, Chile’s youth team is set to travel to France to compete in an exclusive, invitation only youth soccer tournament. The Tournoi Espoirs de Toulon, or Toulon Hopefuls Tournament, held annually in the south of the country, pits some of the world’s most exciting and promising youth teams against one another.
Due to kick-off May 20, 2014, this year’s competition will be the Chilean youth team’s fourth appearance in Toulon — La Rojita was a finalists in 2008, won the title in 2009 and reached fourth place in 2010.
Since those successes, however, Chile found itself in a dry patch, missing out on the prestigious tournament for several years. In response to this, Sergio Jadue, president of Chile’s soccer association (ANFP), made reaching the competition a priority this year. Another key figure in the plan to qualify for Toulon was director of Chile’s national teams, Felipe Correa, who emphasized the importance of the ANFP in making this dream a reality.
“ANFP president Jadue put me in charge of the plan to organize Chile’s return to this competition and the board of directors assisted by providing the resources needed,” explained Correas. “We got in touch with [the Toulon Tournament] and they invited us based on Chile’s performance in the under 20s World Cup in Turkey and other youth tournaments as well as the recent results of the adult team in qualifiers for Brazil 2014 in which junior players took part.”
According to Sergio Jaude, another key factor in the team once again reaching the exclusive competition was Chile’s co opting of renowned youth coach Hugo Tocalli to head the young hopefuls.
Tocalli himself echoed the importance of competing in Toulon citing the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s brightest youth talent from Europe and Africa as well as the chance to impress the legions of club scouts who attend the game on the lookout for fresh blood.
“It is a very important tournament. I have gone three times as a coach and twice as an assistant for José Pekerman with the Argentine national team,” said Tocalli. “It is a great competition as it allows for continuity between the current under 20 club and the upcoming players.”
This tournament, and the professional opportunities for the young players that come with it, come at a time where many Chilean athletes are already playing a prominent role at the highest level of club soccer. Among the best known are Alexis Sanchez who forms part of Barcelona’s formidable squad and Arturo Vidal, a key force for Italian champion Juventus.