The Dana Cup: 40 years of youth football for the masses

For a fan of football, the Dana Cup is a well-known event.

With thousands of youth players participating from around the world, it makes for one of the largest football tournaments in the globe, taking place every year in the North Jutland town of Hjørring in Denmark at the end of July.

We caught up with their Marketing Manager & former Matilda, Alison Forman to talk about what they have achieved for youth development in football and the immersive nature of the tournament in providing participants with experiences in Denmark.

Dana Cup logo ,Hjørring, Denmark

Zushan Hashmi: When was the Dana Cup first hosted, and what does it involve?

Alison Forman: The Dana Cup was founded in 1982 with years of experience, we are honoured to offer an amazing youth football platform for teams to come and play, the Beautiful Game.

Each summer more than 1000 teams make their way to Northern Denmark to participate in a mind-blowing youth football event.

Dana Cup unites the youth of the world to experience their passion for football with respect, unity, equality, friendships and much more.

Our team categories include:

Boys Girls
B18/19 G18/19
B17 G17
B16 G16
B15 G15
B14 G14
B13 G13
B12 G12

And since 1982 we have had:

  • 117 nations compete;
  • 4,365 clubs & 28,342 teams participate;
  • 21,095 boy’s teams & 7,247 girl’s teams compete;
  • over 71,225 games played;
  • 303,184 goals scored; and
  • Over 700,000 participants

The next Dana Cup will be held on 26-31 July 2021.

How about the team behind the Dana Cup, with so many volunteers, players and fans involved? Could you tell me a bit about them?

The Dana Cup has around 1000 volunteers, primarily working during the week of the tournament but we also have volunteers working all year round within different areas across the tournament. Our volunteers ensure that all of our participants enjoy an amazing week of football while they are visiting us in Hjørring.

Many of our volunteers have formed friendships with the clubs, leaders and players who visit each summer – it is truly a unique environment and an amazing experience for all. We are dependent on our volunteers who do a tremendous job for our tournament and us.

What was the reason the Dana Cup was started and has continued to go on so strongly nearly 40 years later?

Our former Director, John Robert Larsen, founded the Dana Cup in 1982.

His idea to start the Dana Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament was to help raise money for our amateur department in Fortuna Hjørring.

His idea paid off and here we are today with around 1000 teams each summer in Hjørring.

I believe our strength as an organization is our ability to deliver a world-class, quality tournament, year after year.

When participating in our tournament you will find that everything runs like clockwork; games are on time, buses are on time; everything is smooth sailing and that is something not to be taken lightly with more than 2.500 games to be played during the week.

Our visions and values are to provide a quality tournament, in a safe environment, with a focus on a passion for football, FairPlay for all and an experience of a lifetime for everyone.

John Robert passed away in 2017 but his legacy lives on.

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What are the main aims of the Dana Cup? As there is so much involved, with activities for the audiences, opportunities for young players to compete with each other and make friends and grow the game of football?

Our main goal is to unite the youth of the world through football.

We present an amazing platform for international youth footballers to have fun and enjoy their passion for the beautiful game and ensure that all of our guests leave us with some amazing experiences.

Football is a global game and we are honoured to be able to share the Dana Cup experience with footballers, coaches, leaders and parents from all corners of the world.

Our main aim or goal is to deliver a “quality” International Youth Soccer Tournament for all.

Dana Cup Young Player celebrating victorious moment,Hjørring, Denmark

Who are some of the players that have taken part in the cup and become household names today?

We do not have a complete list but some of the players include:

  • Andrea Pirlo – Italy;
  • Javier Hernández Balcázar – Mexico;
  • Júlio César Baptista – Brazil;
  • Allan Nielsen – Denmark;
  • Brede Hangeland – Norway;
  • Brian Laudrup – Denmark;
  • Cheryl Salisbury – Australia;
  • Fredrik Torsteinbø – Norway;
  • Frode Olsen – Norway;
  • Jurgen Pisani – Malta;
  • Marco Fabián – Mexico; and
  • Valeria Aurora Miranda Rodríguez – Mexico.

As an immersive experience of playing football but also learning about Hjørring and understanding Northern Denmark better, what are the skills and experiences that people gain having come out of the Cup?

The benefits and experiences that come from participating in our tournament are many; for both players, coaches and parents individually, as well as for the entire team and or club as a unity.

Football is known worldwide for its power to unite people and that is exactly what happens during our tournament. 20,000 participants and 10,000 parents/supporters are united for one week of football 24/7.

They get to experience their passion for football with a diverse group of youth footballers from all corners of the World.

They are challenged on the playing field, meeting different types of play from one game to the next, learning to adapt to different conditions quickly.

Through our #DanaCupUnited campaign, we encourage everyone to take responsibility and promise to contribute to creating a safe environment, where they treat each other with respect and where they show FairPlay on and off the field.

So apart from developing their football skills on the field they also develop general life skills, all while having fun and making friends across borders through the beautiful game.

What are the various other activities that are on offer during the Dana Cup, both for the audience and the players?

Football is the major focus, but our side events are also important for our guests.

We have a Dana Cup Kick-Off – Training tournament, the weekend before we start our normal tournament that runs on Sunday and Monday.

During the week we have our fantastic Dana Cup Event Area, where everyone can meet between their games and hang out with loads of different activities powered by our official partners.

You can chill out and relax or enjoy numerous fun activities. Towards the end of the week, Friday and Saturday we do organized tours to Fårup Sommerland, which is a fun park and a must-do when visiting our tournament.

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Participants also get free entrance to our local museums and our aquatic centre in the heart of the central area.

A favourite for the players in our disco in the event area from Tuesday to Friday.

We also organize tours around Northern Jutland and or Copenhagen if anyone wants to see more than our tournament area.Football team's victory Celebration on stage

What are some of the countries where the Dana Cup would like to see increased participation?

We have a very high participation rate, as I’ve mentioned but we would like to see an increase in teams from Oceania for sure, otherwise from all corners of the World.

We have welcomed 117 nations since the start of the tournament, so new nations are always warmly welcomed.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in growing the Dana Cup, which is virtually known to most football audiences in Europe today?

I would like to say that the Dana Cup is known worldwide, not just in Europe.

Our local community, Hjørring has a population of around 30.000 people, so a challenge for us is to find space for our guests, which is also around 30,000 in total each summer.

Other challenges have been points of entrance into Northern Denmark but now there are very good connections by flight, ferry, train and road.

The Cup has been endorsed by several professionals in the football world, such as Jürgen Klopp, most recently. How does this support help and why is it necessary?

The support of Jürgen Klopp and others endorsing us is important for young people, all people to see and hear their role models and to be inspired. If you can see it, you can be it! We feel we have a huge responsibility to guide our young participants with relevant and valuable content from such role models.

We have just recently made a new agreement with UEFA in regards to their campaigns – WePlayStrong and FairGame as these are important messages for the young minds taking part in our tournament.

Thailand football fan smiles in front of camera, Hjørring, Denmark

Due to COVID-19, 2020 will be the first year without the Dana Cup since it was formed in 1982, how has this impacted the tournament, and on the flip side, what can we expect in 2021?

The cancellation of our tournament this summer was difficult but we totally understand that it was the correct decision when it comes to health and safety.

It is a huge economic loss for not only us as a tournament but for our entire community and local clubs that assist us during the tournament. With that being said we are resilient and we will return in 2021 with an amazing ”Come Back” tournament, that is for sure.

We have already started our plans for Dana Cup 26-31 July 2021 – we are ready to welcome back our Dana Cup Family members.

For more on Football, visit Sportageous.
This Article is written by the Sportageous Editorial Team.
You can follow the Dana Cup on Instagram and Twitter.
Noor Shafiq assisted in the curation of this article. You can follow him here on LinkedIn.

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