Cape Town - A major element of VfB Stuttgart’s 120-year history has been their consistent and successful work with the youth academy.
'Fought my way back'
Despite the managerial upheaval earlier in the season, 2013-14 has been no different for a club that has lifted more youth titles - ten U-19 and six U-17 Championships - than any other German outfit.
Taking up the mantle from predecessor Bruno Labbadia, head coach Thomas Schneider continues to put young talent first, with the likes of Antonio Rüdiger and Timo Werner serving as home-grown prospects currently on die Schwaben’s books, and now looking to impress a wider audience at VfB’s training camp in Cape Town.
“Even though I'm still so young, I've had to cope with several set-backs, but I've also fought my way back by working hard,” Rüdiger explained. “VfB rely on young players and of course I want to come through here and develop myself even further.”
'Young and wild'
Like Rüdiger, Werner is yet another VfB product in the truest sense, already commanding his fair share of media attention in his breakthrough campaign in the Bundesliga and hoping to emulate Stuttgart’s ‘young and wild’ generation that ten years ago booked their place in the UEFA Champions League.
Though a repeat of 2002/03’s unforgettable feat is unlikely this time around, Schneider, having previously coached the VfB youth team, could well be the man to lead the club’s latest crop of youngsters back into the big time in the years ahead.
'Hospitable and nice'
In the meantime, Rüdiger and Co. are more than happy honing their craft in front of a newfound army of followers in South Africa’s second-most populous city.
"This is the first time I've been to South Africa and it's made a really positive impression on me. The people are so hospitable and nice,” Rüdiger enthused. “They are just calm and totally normal, and they are just very chilled,” continued the 20-year-old, whose team resume their Bundesliga campaign at home to 1. FSV Mainz 05.
Click below for a message from Rüdiger himself from the Rainbow nation.