MILK CUP: Spar backing a 'Special One' at Milk Cup!

INTER Milan boss Jose Mourinho will have a hand in the Milk Cup this summer.

While the self-acclaimed 'Special One' won't be available to look in on the Ulster youth football extravaganza, one of the teams he helps coach will be making an appearance.

The outspoken boss, who brilliantly guided Inter to the Champions League final thanks to a defensive master class, watched his former club Chelsea reach the final of the Premier Milk Cup tournament in 2005 via the BBC's live streaming of their semi-final against Porto.

He famously halted a function at Stamford Bridge to watch the game which ended in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea eventually going through on penalties although they lost to Barcelona in the final.

Mourinho didn't get to visit the event but was regularly in receipt of updates from the club's youth academy director at the time, Carnlough man Brendan Rodgers.

Now the Portuguese master has another connection to the tournament with the news that Senegalese side Etoile Lusitana are competing in the Premier competition.

Tournament chairman Victor Leonard has revealed that the man who was so passionate about his youth teams at Chelsea is equally as interested in the progress of the African club's academy based in Dakar.

"Etoile Lusitana has benefitted from coaching sessions by Mourinho over a period of years," said Victor.

"He is a regular visitor and spends a lot of time with the young players, coaching and helping in their development.

"It is a real measure of the man that he is prepared to commit so much time to helping the Academy give opportunities for players to make a career in the game."

One of the players who was coached by the former Benfica and Porto boss, Senegalese Under-21 international, Pape Abdou Camara, has since joined Belgian club Standard Liege.

Meanwhile, Spain's Club Marcet are making a two-pronged assault on the Milk Cup. The Barcelona-based club has a world-wide reputation for excellence in coaching and will compete at both Junior and Premier level.

Marcet was founded by former Spanish international Javier Marcet who also played for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Espanyol. He is still considered to have been one of the most technically gifted players in Spanish football and was known as 'the master.'

Spanish clubs such as Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Seville have competed at the Milk Cup before and Barca beat Chelsea to win the Premier title in 2005.

Bronagh Luke, Corporate Marketing Controller from Henderson, owners of SPAR and sponsor of the tournament, said the new arrivals are another exciting first for the competition as it seeks to expand.

She added: "We are delighted to sponsor this important international sporting youth event for the third year. The Milk Cup is a pivotal date in the football calendar that brings together local home-grown talent and international teams to compete and socialise.

“As a community retailer, SPAR believes in supporting local initiatives and educating healthy active lifestyles that will impact the wider community. We hope that the team coming from Spain will enjoy their local experience and bring some Viva La Spania spirit to the pitch!”

The draw for this year’s three competitions takes place at W5 in the Odyssey, Belfast, on Tuesday, May 11, with the tournament kicking off on Monday, July 26, after a welcome parade of 54 teams through Coleraine to the Showgrounds the previous evening.