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1997 was a very special year for the Dana Cup, an annual international youth soccer tournament held in Denmark. That year, 819 teams took part in the competition, the largest participation in the tournament's history.
The first tournament of the new millenium didn't quite eclipse the mark set in 1997, but it comes very close. The 808 participating teams this year mark the second-largest turnout in Dana Cup history. "The teams come from 44 different nations," said John Robert Larsen, director of the tournament. "But traditionally, the Scandinavian countries outnumber the other nations. Norway's the biggest -- and this year, even more Norwegian soccer players are coming to Denmark.

"This year Norway is sending 300 teams."

Dana Cup has a large collection of national flags, but this year they had to purchase two new flags to accomodate a pair of newcomers. Dana Cup 2000 will feature clubs from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Barbados for the first time. Sweden and Germany are sending 100 teams each. Finland will send 50 teams. "With more than 800 teams, Dana Cup is one of the biggest youth soccer tournaments in the world," said Larsen. "The biggest is Norway Cup with 1100 to 1200 teams, but Norway Cup is not as international as Dana Cup. You might consider Norway Cup to be a kind of Norwegian championship. The second biggest is Gothia Cup in Sweden." "The population in Hjoerring -- and in the area around the city -- will grow by about 23,000 to 24,000 "new" citizens this week," Larsen added. "At Dana Cup, we have a big disco-tent with room for 3000 youngsters. We have security guards inside the disco-tent and outside, and this year we also have street guides placed in the streets nearby to avoid trouble."

The Dana Cup 2000 officially opened on Monday night with a large parade through town. All of the participating teams gathered at Hjoerring Stadium, where the mayor of Hjoerring, Bent Brown, and Danish top referee Kim Milton Nielsen officially declared the Dana Cup 2000 open.
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