French Ligue 1 club Marseille, German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Italian Serie A outfit Cagliari will feature at this year’s HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, making the 2017 edition the most diverse in the annual tournament’s 19-year history.
After Spanish La Liga side Atletico Madrid left Hong Kong Football Club with the Main Cup trophy on their debut appearance in 2015, the new trio from continental Europe are set to bring the same level of competitiveness to challenge the established sides from Great Britain and Asia.
Further teams from Europe and Asia will be announced in the coming weeks for the May 26-28 event at Hong Kong Football Club.
“We are delighted to announce that this year’s HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens will be the most diverse in its entire history,” said tournament director Chris Plowman.
“In the past few years we have said we are keen to diversify the event and get participation from more leagues around the world.
“With Marseille, Bayer Leverkusen and Cagliari we will see that come to fruition with representation from the top divisions of the French, German and Italian leagues for the very first time at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens. It’s going to be fascinating to see them take on the English, Scottish and Asian teams.”
Marseille have won the French title 10 times and have claimed the French Cup on 10 occasions too, while they also lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in 1993.
The club, who are the only French side to be crowned European champions, were bought by US businessman Frank McCourt at the end of last year and signalled their intentions in January by signing France international midfielder Dimitri Payet from West Ham.
Marseille’s first team squad also currently contains the likes of veteran French defender Patrice Evra, former Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby and striker Bafetimbi Gomis.
“Since it has been solicited, our club proved to be eager to participate in the well-known tournament which has already shown in the past its drawing power,” said a Marseille club statement.
“We will take part with our best young players with the goal of facing high opponents and suiting the training course cycle.
“Moreover, the seven players a-side format is well adapted to the type of players we shape. That’s an amazing and exciting challenge!”
Bayer are five-time German Bundesliga runners-up, who have won the German Cup on one occasion and also the UEFA Cup, as well reaching the UEFA Champions League final in 2002.
The club have a well-respected and effective youth system, with several current first team players including Benjamin Henrichs, Kevin Kampl and Danny da Costa having all progressed through the ranks.
“We are extremely proud to be invited to this highly ranked tournament in a world city such as Hong Kong,” said Bayer in a club statement.
“A very high class of participants and an exceptional tournament mode will be a new and great challenge for our players and the entire coach and staff team.
“In addition, all participants will get an impression of this modern city. In this aspect, our players and staff will gain a very important international experience which will not be forgotten so quickly.”
Former Italian champions Cagliari, who are based on the island of Sardinia, won the second division title last year to win promotion back to Serie A.
“We are delighted to be able to attend the tournament that will take place during May 2017, sure that it will be a great challenge for personal and professional growth for both our young players and management, enabling us to meet with a reality that is very difficult from ours and to immerse ourselves in an entirely new culture, as well as giving the opportunity to approach the constantly growing Asian market,” said Cagliari commercial, marketing and communication director Mario Passetti.