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Vodacom Challenge Start of the Past

Tottenham Hotspur will be bringing some of the biggest names in global football when they arrive in South Africa for the 2011 Vodacom Challenge.

Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart played in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ final at Soccer City last year, while Welsh wizard Gareth Bale is one of the most sought-after young talents in Europe after his exploits in the UEFA Champions League last season.

The likes of Luka Modric, Robbie Keane, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Wilson Palacios, Peter Crouch and Benoît Assou-Ekotto are all household Premiership names, along with bafana Bafana skipper Steven Pienaar. His compatriot, Bongani Khumalo, is known and loved by local fans.

The names in the Tottenham Hotspur squad add to the prestigious list of players to have graced the competition in the past.

In 2009, Manchester City’s galaxy of stars included the Brazilian Robinho – the fifth most expensive player in the history of the game. They also had the likes of Togo legend Emmanuel Adebayor, Englishman Gareth Barry and Dutch World Cup finalist Nigel de Jong.

Participation by Manchester United in two of the last three Vodacom Challenge tournaments has afforded South African fans a close up look at the talent of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes.

On Tottenham Hotspur’s last visit in 2007, they brought an African star in the form of Cote d’Ivoire international Didier Zokora, who was a teenager when he participated in the first edition of the Vodacom Challenge in 1999 for ASEC Abidjan.

The ASEC line-up a decade ago also included Kolo Toure, who has gone on to captain English giants Arsenal, and Bakary Kone of Olympique Marseille, a past winner of the France’s top player award.

Tunisia’s Esperance showcased the giant defender Radhi Jaidi, who subsequently moved to play in England, while Africa Sports from Cote d’Ivoire in 2000 had Abdelkader Keita leading their attack. In 2007, French champions Olympique Lyonnaise paid 18-million Euros for Keita in a transfer from Lille.

In the 2003 edition of the Vodacom Challenge, the Congolese club FC St Eloi Lupopo defended their title with midfielder Zola Matumona in their line-up. He has since gone onto play in Belgium and for his national side and at the 2006 African Nations Cup finals won an unprecedented three man of the match awards.

Tresor Mputu, the top goal scorer in African club competition for two successive years in 2008 and 2009, has also been a past participant in the Vodacom Challenge in the colours of three-time African champions TP Mazembe Englebert, where he still plays, helping them to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup™, where they lost to the mighty Spanish giants Barcelona.

Famous managers and coaches have included Sir Alex Ferguson, the all-conquering boss at Manchester United, former United and Chelsea star Mark Hughes who came as coach of Manchester City, and Martin Jol, newly-appointed boss at Fulham, but the coach of Tottenham Hotspur in 2007.