Saeed Hareb addresses the press conference in the presence of Michel Salgado (right) and former Carles Puyol on Friday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona will go head to head along with other European club giants as the third edition of the Under-13 Dubai Intercontinental Football Cup kicks off at the Dubai Sports City from February 14-16.

Real Madrid — who lost on penalties to Ghana’s Lizzy Sports Academy in last year’s final — will be challenged by Barca and other European clubs such as Juventus, Chelsea, Celta Vigo and Porto. Others in the fray include Egyptian giants Al Ahli alongside UAE clubs including Al Nasr, Al Wasl, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Al Wahda and Al Ain.

A Tokyo Select All Star team from Japan will also be here for the 20-team competition along with Australia’s Pascoe Vale, FC Twente of the Netherlands, Levante Azzuro of Italy, Japan’s JEF United Chiba and a team representing Cairo. The Canadian Academy of Futbol will be flying the flag for North America once again, while the Spanish Soccer Schools complete the list.

Details of the event were revealed at the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) on Thursday by Saeed Hareb, secretary general, DSC, in the presence of former Spain and Real Madrid star Michel Salgado, the chief executive of the tournament and former Spanish and FC Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, also the ambassador for the event.

“This tournament is very important for us at Dubai Sports Council because our focus is on nurturing and supporting the future generation of players,” Saeed Hareb, said.

“I am really pleased to see five teams from the UAE will be among the 20 teams from five continents competing for the title. This tournament, like Dubai, is a melting pot of football cultures and styles, and its growth in three years shows that we needed such an age-group competition, where the best from different countries and continents can compete against each other,” Hareb added.

The matches will be played from 9am to 9pm every day with the grand final for the Gold Cup scheduled for 8.30pm on February 16.

With so many high-profile teams participating, arrangements have been made to broadcast the tournament around the globe with at least 29 of the 53 matches shown live.

Salgado, who is the brain behind the tournament, was pleased to give youngsters an ideal launch pad for their career as players. “This country has been my home since the past six years and it is also the perfect place to host such an amazing tournament. This event is a real chance for our local teams and players to challenge the best of the world in order to make them ready to be competitive,” Salgado noted.

“It’s the biggest opportunity to watch the best under-13 players of the world and the future stars. We want to make this competition the most important grass roots tournament in the world,” he added.