Thursday, September 29, 2005

'Goal' Idol

A "SoccaStars" competition reaches its climax in Cairo this weekend - when one young footballer from the Arab world will be selected to train for a year with the Newcastle United Academy.

A "pop idol"-style competition has seen thousands of hopefuls whittled down to 50 players, 25 of whom were then discarded after trials.

Those 25 players have then trained together and played in a number of friendly games against youth teams from Kuwait, Jordan and Olympique Marseille.

Voting from a TV audience then saw six players discarded each week until the 13 remained.

Among the judges this weekend is toon legend Peter (Pedro) Beardsley, while the player ultimately crowned Arab SoccaStar will be presented with their Toon shirt at St.James' Park on a forthcoming match day.

(There's been some speculation in the Arab press that two players may actually go into the Academy to minimise the effects of what will inevitably be something of a culture shock to the winner.)

The SoccaStars concept was first brought to TV in Portugal in 2004, with the winner being taken on for a year at the Academy of Sporting Lisbon - although there's no sign of him on the current Juniores or Juvenis squad lists.

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