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  • Hong Kong, 25 May 2014 -

    England U-18 winger Brandon Barker scored two sensational second-half goals as Manchester City came from behind to beat Hong Kong champions Kitchee 2-1 in a dramatic Cup final at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens.
     
    Manchester City had earlier come from behind to beat Sunderland 3-2 after extra-time of a thrilling semi-final, while Kitchee had also needed a golden goal to beat Newcastle United 3-2 in the first semi at Hong Kong Football Club.
     
    Jason Wilcox, concluding his first season as Manchester City U-18 coach, was delighted with his young players, who were devastated to lose in the English U18 Premier League playoff final just days before flying to Hong Kong.
     
    “I thought it was fantastic and just a fitting end to our season. They’ve worked really hard,” said the 42-year-old former England winger, whose career included a Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers.
     
    “It’s not the first time we’ve come back from being down, so I’m really pleased. They showed great character. I’m delighted for them, because we lost the U18s Premier League final just before we came, so they’ve recovered well.
     
    “I said before we came, we’re a very exciting team and even the defenders are good attackers. I always knew we’d have goals in us, so if we could defend properly, work hard and understand the format, then I knew we’d go far.”
     
    Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee deflected in a shot by Spanish striker Jordi Tarres Paramo just before the break in a match featuring two 10-minute halves. Jordi then hit the post in the third minute of the second half before Barker equalised two minutes later, firing into the roof of the net from outside the area.
     
    Kitchee’s Christian Annan and Manchester City striker Thierry Ambrose both had one-on-one chances in a fast-paced end to a thrilling game, but Barker was the hero after cutting in from the left side of the area and curling in a right-footed shot inside the far post with just a minute left.
     
    Barker, 17, was named Player of the Tournament ahead of several leading candidates including teammate Ambrose and Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish, who finished the event as top scorer with six goals.
     
    Barker was confident his team could come back against Kitchee, the tournament’s 2011 winners and who recently won their third First Division title in four seasons.
     
    “I just knew it was going to happen, to be honest,” said Barker, who scored four goals in the tournament. “It’s a great set of lads and we’ve done it in the end. It was a great experience and something very different. The weather’s a bit hot, but you have to deal with that.
     
    “It was gutting losing the Premier League final, but obviously we’ve won another piece of silverware.”
     
    Grealish, 18, was the star of the Shield final as Aston Villa beat Scottish giants Rangers 3-1. Villa were one of the pre-tournament favourites, but the five-time winners lost 1-0 to Sunderland in the Cup quarter-finals.
     
    Leicester City, the 2013 Cup champions, beat BC Rangers 2-0 to win the third-tier Plate.
     
    Jari Litmanen was named Player of the Tournament in the Masters as Aegon Ajax All Stars regained the Cup they won in 2012, beating USRC 1-0 with a strike by Olaf Lindbergh in extra-time, in which teams play four-a-side and win with a golden goal.
     
    “When we are playing we want to entertain and enjoy. When you’re in the final, you have two choices – you either lose or you win, so I rather we win than we lose,” said Litmanen, who was also part of the team beaten 2-1 by Rangers Legends in last year’s final.
     
    “Last year we lost with more or less the same team and now we’ve won it. It’s nice to have finished like this. In the past three years, Ajax has won twice and lost one final so I think we’ve done a good job.”
     
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.

  • Hong Kong, 24 May 2014 -

    Daniel ‘DJ’ Johnson, the 2012 Player of the Tournament, scored four goals to help five-time winners Aston Villa record three straight 2-0 wins and top Group D at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, with their last win over Leicester City pushing the defending champions into the Plate.
     
    HKFA U-21 earlier shocked Leicester 1-0 with a goal from Lee Ka-ho, then secured second spot and a place in the Cup quarter-finals after Villa beat Leicester with goals by 18-year-old star Jack Grealish and Joshua Webb. Johnson, 21, scored all four goals in Villa’s victories over HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select.
     
    Hong Kong champions Kitchee, the 2011 champions, topped Group B after a scoreless draw against Sunderland was followed by 1-0 wins over Chelsea and HKFC Captain’s Select. Sunderland finished second after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the last group match, leaving Chelsea joining Leicester in the Plate.
     
    Manchester City and Rangers progressed from Group C after a 1-1 draw in their final match meant the two British clubs edged Hong Kong First Division side BC Rangers on goal difference, all three teams finishing on five points. Newcastle and HKFA U-23 progressed from Group A to complete the quarter-final line-up.
     
    Aston Villa U-18 coach Ben Petty was delighted with his side’s opening day and said Johnson and other players requested to return to Hong Kong in a concerted bid to win back the trophy they’ve won five times.
     
    “We’re delighted. I asked the boys for three solid performances and that’s what we got. We haven’t conceded a goal, we’ve looked good at the back, and Daniel and Jack are starting to hit a little bit of form, so we’re pleased,” Petty said.
     
    “Danny wanted to come back here. The boys think very highly of the competition and when the squad was being considered, Danny and one or two of the older boys asked if they could be considered. We’re delighted to bring him. Janoi Donacien and Josh Webb are all in the Under-21s now and they’ve also come back.”
     
    Petty admitted the side is determined to break their trophy ‘drought’ and that the upcoming retirement of Bryan Jones, the club’s Academy Manager, makes this year’s campaign a special one.
     
    “It has been too long since we won. As a club, we want to start winning things and whether that’s at youth level, U-21 level, we want to put trophies on the table, so we’re out to win this,” said Petty, who is coaching in his fourth straight Soccer Sevens.
     
    “We’d like to win it for Bryan as he’s bowing out after 20 years of service. He’s been amazing for the Academy. We all spoke before the tournament and we said he’s done a lot for all of us, including the staff, so it would be a nice way for him to bow out.”
     
    Hong Kong national coach Kim Pan-gon was delighted with how his U-21 charges held on for a momentous victory over Leicester, whose squad includes 2013 Player of the Tournament Harry Panayiotou.
     
    “Actually in Hong Kong our weak point is mentality, but today we improved our mentality and fighting spirit. Our players really wanted to get into the Cup, so it was great to beat a top team from England,” said Kim, who’s overseeing both the HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides at the tournament.
     
    “The boys are just 18 or 19, so this is a good opportunity for them to learn something and to get more experience. They did well.”
     
    Spanish striker Jordi Tarres scored in the second half as Kitchee secured a famous win over Chelsea, one of the pre-tournament favourites after bringing many players from their U21 Premier League winning squad.
     
    “We were pleased with the win over Chelsea,” said Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee. “They are young, so we thought we had a 50/50 chance. In the first half, we got to know their style of play, then in the second half we tried some different movements to pinpoint their weaknesses. We’ve had a good season, so we’re trying to enjoy the tournament and hope the fans enjoy how we play.”
     
    Jason Wilcox’s Manchester City lived up to their promise of attacking football. The young side crushed Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) 4-0 and were two up against BC Rangers, before the local club made it 2-2 with the last kick of the match.
     
    French striker Thierry Ambrose scored three goals, England U-18 winger Brandon Barker netted twice, while captain James Horsfield and Spanish left-back Jose Angel Tasende (‘Angelino’) also scored.
     
    Wilcox, 42, said his U-18s would need to maintain concentration if they’re to progress further in the competition.
     
    “We got off to a great start, but then slipped into a little bit of complacency in the second game, especially going two up. In this competition, if you switch off for a minute, you can concede a goal, so it’s a real learning curve for the lads,” said the former England winger, who won the Premier League with Blackburn.
     
    “We went into the last game needing at least a draw, so I was really pleased with how they performed. We showed courage and character to get back into it after going a goal down. We’re playing in a different climate, extremely difficult, so I’m really pleased,” added Wilcox, before paying tribute to his forward.
     
    “Thierry’s very exciting, very powerful, so he’s got a bright future.”
     
    In the Masters, Rangers Legends lost 3-1 to a United Services Recreation Club side boosted by five Brazilian guest stars. However, the defending champions bounced back to beat Wallsend Boys Club 3-2 and finish second behind USRC in Group A.
     
    Michael Bridges will play no further part in the tournament after the former Leeds and Sunderland striker suffered a broken arm, having already scored his second goal of the tournament in Wallsend’s 3-1 win over Kowloon Cricket Club.
     
    Aegon Ajax All Stars, the 2012 champions, beat 2011 champions Eastern Salon Original 1-0 for a third straight victory in Group B, as both sides moved into the quarter-finals from Group B.
     
    Nottingham Forest Mobsters and Citibank All Stars both remained undefeated in Group C, the teams drawing 1-1 in their last match. Carlton Palmer earlier earned Citibank All Stars a crucial 1-0 win over 2010 champions KFC Tokyo.
     
    Sunday matches kick off at 8.00am with day tickets available at the stadium entrance for HK$160. Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
     

  • Hong Kong, 23 May 2014 -

    Former Netherlands striker Michael Mols scored a late winner as Rangers Legends kicked off the defence of their Masters title at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens with a hard-fought 1-0 win over local side Kowloon Cricket Club.
    KCC, boosted by Scottish guest stars Pat Nevin and James Grady, came close to scoring in the opening minute, but Andy Goram pulled off a crucial save.
    Midfielder Alex Rae played with Goram and Scott Nisbet in the Rangers sides that won the Masters in 2008 and last year, and paid tribute to the man between the sticks.
    “We started quite slow and gave them an opportunity, but we’ve come to see that from Andy Goram over the years. He’s been brilliant and just as important as the people scoring the goals. From there we started to play well,” said Rae, who scored the winner against Aegon Ajax All Stars in last year’s final.
    “Michael’s prolific in front of goal. He had one or two chances in the first half, but the keeper pulled off some good saves. We created enough chances and maybe we could have had one or two penalties, but it’s three points.
    “We always find it difficult in the first game because everyone’s very cagey. It’s just a case of being patient and waiting for the opportunity when it arises. We’re pleased because last year we had a poor start and that puts pressure on you for the next couple of games.”
    Rangers Legends lead Group A, after debutants Wallsend Boys Club drew 1-1 with local club USRC (United Services Recreation Club).
    Michael Bridges, the former Leeds and Sunderland striker, scored a second-half penalty on his Soccer Sevens debut to equalise for Wallsend, after Fabio Alcantara – a Hong Kong First Division striker and one of several Brazilian guest stars in the USRC side – scored in the first half.
    “It was nice to get a goal,” Bridges said. “I didn’t realise it was so tough, though! It’s a big pitch and there are only seven of us out there. It’s a great concept and I loved it, but I found it very tiring, so who knows how some of the older boys manage. I really enjoyed it and it was good to get a goal.
    Aegon Ajax All Stars, the 2012 champions, beat hosts HKFC Veterans 2-0 in Group B with goals by Gerald Sibon and Kenneth Perez, Player of the Tournament for the past two years.
    Also in Group B, 2011 champions Eastern Salon Original of Hong Kong opened the tournament with a comfortable 2-0 win over HKFC Chairman’s Select, the hosts’ second-string side in the Masters.
    Jason Lee and David Johnson, with a penalty, scored as Nottingham Forest Mobsters beat 2010 champions KFC Tokyo 2-1. The English club, with former England star Des Walker in defence, lead Group C after group favourites Citibank All Stars were held to a scoreless draw by SCC Tigers from Singapore.
    Walker said: “It’s nice to get off with a win, as I think it puts everyone under pressure if you lose or draw the first game. It was good, but I think we’ve got more to come and there are good teams out there, so we’ve got to raise our game.
    “The Citibank All Stars look a strong team, so it’s going to be a difficult group to get out of. I think we’ve got a bit more legs than last year, so hopefully we can make more of an inroad this year.”
    All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm), while the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass. Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon Original (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (ENG), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 23 May 2014 -

    Chelsea and Sunderland are both wary of facing Hong Kong champions Kitchee at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens on Saturday afternoon, with the 2011 champions posing a big threat to the two English sides progressing to the Cup quarter-finals.
    HKFC Captain’s Select, the second team from hosts Hong Kong Football Club, round out a tough Group B in the 16-team Main Tournament, which kicks off with Groups C and D on Saturday morning.
    Chelsea U-21 coach Dermot Drummy said Hong Kong’s weather and the presence of Sunderland and Kitchee in their group stage could threaten their bid to win the Cup after previous attempts in 2000, when they reached the final, and two years ago, when his side lost to the Black Cats in the quarter-finals.
    “It’s a tough start, but we’ll enjoy it. Every game we play is tough. The thing here is the physicality and the weather. I’ve seen it in these tournaments. It drains people very quickly, so the emphasis is on keeping the ball,” said Drummy, who also managed Chelsea two years ago.
    “We know Kitchee will be quick and that if we give the ball away it’ll be hard to get it back, but we’re good at keeping the ball. The difference for our boys is to play in this weather and on this [astroturf] pitch, so they’ve got to acclimatise very quickly. We want the boys to problem solve on the pitch and hopefully they’ll do that.”
    Chelsea will be captained by tall centre-back Alex Davey, one of several players from the club’s U21 Premier League-winning squad.
    Striker Islam Feruz, midfielders Billy Clifford and Charlie Colkett, defenders Alex Davey, Adam Nditi and Fankaty Dabo, and towering goalkeeper Jamal Blackman were also involved in Chelsea’s U21 success, which was capped by a 2-1 playoff final win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
    “Jamal’s a big man and was superb for us at Old Trafford. He was a big-game player for us and I’m sure he’ll be called into service here,” said Drummy, who will start with Feruz up front.
    “Islam Feruz has been our No. 9 all season. He’s a great link player and does a lot of work off the ball to get us linked up. When the ball goes into him, it normally sticks, so this will be something we do. Billy’s a very technically gifted player and gets us going forward.”
    Kevin Ball is leading Sunderland at the Soccer Sevens for a third straight year, as the side look to build on reaching the semi-finals on their previous appearances in 2010, 2012 and 2013. However, Ball admits that getting through the group stage could prove a tricky task, with Kitchee fielding a full-strength side from the squad that won a third Hong Kong First Division title in four seasons.
    “It could be tough to get out of the group stage, but we’ve got to give it a right go and try and do it. Chelsea have had a fantastic season with their U-21s and U-18s and full credit to them, while Kitchee are the champions here, so it’s a challenge for the lads,” said Ball, the former Sunderland captain.
    “Ideally we want to win and get out of the group – no different to Chelsea and Kitchee – but what’s important for me is how the players go about the game. As long as they give a performance, I’ll be happy with that. If I don’t get a performance, then obviously that’s something for me to talk to the players about.”
    Ball’s squad includes midfielders Liam Agnew and Martin Smith, who were both called up to Sunderland’s first-team squad at the end of the season, while goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has represented England from U-16 through U-19 level and has also been involved with Gus Poyet’s first team.
    However, Ball singled out Chelsea, Manchester City and Aston among the pre-tournament favourites.
    “Chelsea have done very well this year, Man City have got a very good crop of younger players and we know Villa have always had a good team,” Ball said.
    “But when you come here, you come with a view of doing as well as you possibly can. You’re not going to travel thousands of miles for a jolly. You’re going to come to do as well as you can and I think we and the other teams are all going to do that.”
    Ball also admitted there’s a feeling of unfinished business, after losing 1-0 to eventual champions Leicester City in last year’s semis.
    “When we reached the semi-final last year we felt that was an opportunity for us to have possibly progressed a little bit, but congratulations to Leicester,” Ball said. “We would always say to the players, let’s go as far as we possibly can.”
    Group B kicks off in the afternoon along with Group A, which features 2012 champions NHaewcastle United, Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and Hong Kong Football Club.
    Groups C and D start on Saturday morning. Group C features Manchester City, Rangers, Hong Kong First Division side BC Rangers and Singapore Cricket Club. Group D comprises defending champions Leicester City, five-time winners Aston Villa, HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select.
    The tournament kicks off with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm). All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm), while the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com. Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)       
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon Original (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (ENG), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 22 May 2014 -

    Former England winger Jason Wilcox says his young Manchester City team will “put on a good show” at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, as they look to make up for the disappointment of defeat in last week’s English U18 Premier League playoff final.
    Wilcox, 42, led City to victory in the North Group of the U18 Premier League in his first season in charge, but after making it through to the final, his side lost 1-0 to Everton at Goodison Park last Saturday.
    The Blues are now seeking to round off their season by improving on last year’s Soccer Sevens debut, when Wilcox was part of the coaching staff in Hong Kong as City were knocked out by Scottish giants Rangers in the quarter-finals.
    City have an early chance to avenge that defeat as the reigning English champions are pooled with Rangers, Hong Kong First Division club BC Rangers and Singapore Cricket Club in Group C on Saturday, with Wilcox hoping to finish the season on a high.
    “We were extremely disappointed to lose the U18 final, but I’m really, really proud to be the coach of what has been a really excellent season for them in terms of development. They’ve grown as a group and the Soccer Sevens finishes the season nicely, so we’re hoping to put on a good show,” said Wilcox, who first visited Hong Kong with England ahead of the 1996 European Championships.
    “We’ve very young – extremely young, actually – but I’m sure that fans will enjoy watching them play because we’ve got some really talented players with a lot of flair.”
    Wilcox believes his teenage stars suit the fast pace of the seven-a-side event, which features 16 teams in the Main Tournament and 12 sides in the Masters.
    “This event’s a really good format; an interesting format. Have we got players who can deal with one v one situations? Yes. Have we got players who can get around the pitch? Yes. Have we got players with pace? Yes,” said the former winger, who won the 1994/95 Premier League with Blackburn Rovers.
    “Even our defenders are comfortable on the ball and they like to attack. We’re a very attacking side with a lot of individual flair, right the way through the nine outfield players. We’ve got a lot of creativity one v one and that’s what you need. That’s something we’ve got in abundance.
    “We’ve got a lot of quality, but then again they’ve never played this format before and we’ve not had a great deal of preparation time because we got to the U18 final. I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt to the situation.”
    Although his side are younger than most of the other British sides, Wilcox believes there may be advantage in his side all being drawn from the same team.
    “It’s certainly an advantage,” he said. “When you’ve got a squad that’s a mixture of Under-21 players, first-team players and Under-18s, then you’ve never really worked together as a group. Our lads have been together all season, they know me as a coach and what I expect.”
    Former Scotland striker Gordon Durie is in charge of City’s Group C rivals Rangers and has drawn most of the squad from his U-20 side who won the Scottish FA Youth Cup this month, after being pipped by Celtic in the U20 League.
    Calum Gallagher, who scored on his first-team debut in March, is one of four players returning from last year’s Soccer Sevens, when the club reached the semi-finals for a second straight year.
    The 19-year-old striker believes his return along with fellow forward Jamie Burrows, midfielder Andy Murdoch and defender Kyle McAusland will help Rangers, as they seek a first Cup win, having lost in the final in 2009 and 2010.
    “A lot of the newer teams come over and they don’t really take the heat and the playing conditions into considerations,” said Gallagher, who will return for pre-season training at Rangers with Ally McCoist’s first-team squad.
    “I think by having the experience of playing in the tournament, you know what it’s like. Having experience of the tournament will help, but at the same time we’ve got boys who haven’t had a shot here yet, who will come in and really help us out. We’re all dead excited to get it started.”
    Gallagher also paid tribute to Durie’s work in his first season in charge of the club’s U-20 side.
    “We’ve had an amazing season, fighting for the league title and then winning our Youth Cup final,” Gallagher said. “He’s come in and the boys have responded really well to him. He’s really vocal, so he’s everything you’d want in a coach developing young players.”
    Groups C and D will start on Saturday morning, while Groups A and B kick off in the afternoon. Group D comprises defending champions Leicester City, five-time winners Aston Villa, HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select.
    Newcastle United, winners in 2012 and runners-up last year, are the favourites in Group A and will face Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and Hong Kong Football Club. Group B features English clubs Chelsea and Sunderland, Hong Kong champions Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s Select.
    The tournament starts with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm). All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm), while the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)       
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon Original (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (ENG), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 21 May 2014 -

    Teenager Jack Grealish, who made his Premier League debut against Manchester City this month, is confident Aston Villa can win a sixth HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens title at Hong Kong Football Club this weekend. Villa have won the Soccer Sevens a record five times, but last lifted the Cup in 2010.
    Grealish, 18, was part of the Villa squad that reached the Cup final in 2012 and was then the star striker last year, when the side lost 4-3 to eventual champions Leicester City in the quarter-finals before beating Manchester City 2-1 in the Shield final.
    “In my first year here I didn’t really play much and in my second year, last year, I was our top scorer, so this year I’m hoping to win,” Grealish said after arriving in Hong Kong on a British Airways flight carrying the seven British clubs in the Main Tournament and five sides from the over-35 Masters event.
    Grealish, who currently represents Republic of Ireland at U-21 level, believes the return of Danny Johnson, the 2012 Player of the Tournament, is a sign of coach Ben Petty’s strong desire for Villa to win back the Cup they won in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
    “It’s maybe Brian’s last year, so I think he’s desperate to win it and that’s why he’s brought us along; that’s why he’s brought a strong team,” Grealish said.
    “We’ve definitely got a good chance. We’ve got all the talent in the world, so I think we can definitely win it.”
    Grealish’s star has risen this season, as he established himself as a crowd favourite while on loan at Notts County and then enjoyed his first-team debut for Villa as a late substitute against eventual champions Manchester City in this month’s Premier League run-in.
    “I loved it,” Grealish said of his first-team debut. “It was a massive experience for me, after coming back off loan, so I’ve just got to keep that level up when I go back for pre-season training.”
    Aston Villa face defending champions Leicester City, HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select in Group D on Saturday.
    Newcastle United, winners in 2012 and runners-up last year, are the favourites in Group A and will face Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and Hong Kong Football Club.
    English sides Chelsea and Sunderland are pooled with Hong Kong champions Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s Select in Group B.
    Premier League champions Manchester City are the top seeds in Group C and will face Scottish giants Rangers, Hong Kong First Division side BC Rangers and Singapore Cricket Club.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm). All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)       
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon Original (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (ENG), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 20 May 2014 -

    Defending champions Leicester City have included 2013 Player of the Tournament Harry Panayiotou in their 10-man squad for this week’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which kicks off at Hong Kong Football Club on Friday.
    Aston Villa are also bringing a former Player of the Tournament, 21-year-old Daniel Johnson, who received the award after the Jamaica-born midfielder led the five-time champions to the final in 2012.
    Jack Grealish is also in a strong Villa squad and is set for his third straight Soccer Sevens, just weeks after the Republic of Ireland U-21 winger made his first-team debut against Manchester City in this month’s Premier League run-in. Villa are pooled with Leicester in Group D, along with HKFA U-21 and Yee League Select.
    Leicester – whose first team won the Championship last month to earn promotion to the 2014/15 Premier League – upset 2012 champions Newcastle United 2-0 to win last year’s Cup final in only their second Soccer Sevens appearance.
    Jon Rudkin, the club’s Academy Director, has retained Panayiotou and four other players from last year’s winning team – midfielders Jak McCourt and Michael Cain, centre-back Alie Sesay and goalkeeper Adam Smith – and says his charges are geared up for their title defence.
    “Winning the Cup was a terrific achievement for us. It’s something that the players have consistently spoken about through the season and they’ve been looking forward to coming back and trying to defend that title again,” Rudkin said.
    “As well as last year’s players, there are a few other additions who have been playing for us this season and they’re all looking forward to it. Hopefully when they fly back they’ll have many great memories to take back this time as well.”
    Rudkin was also in charge when Leicester capped their tournament debut two years ago by beating Chelsea in the Shield final, while this year the Foxes are bidding to become the first team to successfully defend the Cup since Aston Villa in 2008
    However, Rudkin believes the seven-a-side format makes the tournament unpredictable, reflected by the fact that Leicester were the fifth different side to win the Cup in the past five years.
    “We find the tournament so exciting. It’s great to watch. For the players, there are so many one-against-one scenarios around the pitch that make it really interesting,” Rudkin said.
    “You look at the quality of the teams that are there, but the format means that anyone is capable of going on and winning. I think every club is going to be strong and I think it really bodes for an exciting tournament.”
    Rudkin said the annual Hong Kong showpiece offered young British players the chance to compete in different climates and also benefit by watching experienced pros compete in the over-35 Masters Tournament.
    “Hong Kong’s an amazing place and the weather’s so different to England, so to have that experience of playing in that type of heat is great for the players,” Rudkin said.
    “Also, to have the Masters take to the field and seeing some of the fine players that have had amazing careers, it’s great for our young players to watch them and see how they still go about the game and the fashion that they play.”
    Newcastle United, Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and Hong Kong Football Club are in Group A, while English sides Chelsea and Sunderland are pooled with Hong Kong champions Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s Select in Group B.
    Manchester City, the newly crowned Premier League champions, are top seeds in Group C and will face Scottish giants Rangers, Hong Kong First Division side BC Rangers and Singapore Cricket Club.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)       
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon Original (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 19 May 2014 -

    English Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Scottish giants Rangers have included goalkeepers from their first-team squads as each of the former finalists bid for a first victory in the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25.
    The six-foot five-inch Jamal Blackman, 20, has been included in Chelsea’s provisional 10-man squad for Hong Kong, having risen to become the club’s third-choice goalkeeper behind Petr Cech and Mark Schwarzer.
    Dermot Drummy, Chelsea’s U-21 coach, will again lead the popular English club as they compete in the Soccer Sevens for the second time in three years. Drummy’s squad is drawn from his Chelsea side who won the 2013/14 Barclays U21 Premier League last Wednesday and the club’s U-18s, who won the FA Youth Cup earlier this month.
    Scotland U-21 striker Islam Feruz and England U-18 internationals Kasey Palmer, Charlie Colkett and George Brady are also among the Chelsea squad arriving in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
    “We’ve had a really fantastic season,” Drummy said. “Although we’ve got some players on international duty, we’ll have Jamal Blackman out there, who’s the number three keeper at the club.
    “Islam Feruz is an exciting forward, Casey Palmer is an exciting midfielder and Adam Nditi is an attack-minded left-back, so we’ve got some exciting players coming out.”
    Drummy says he has learnt from previous experience at the seven-a-side competition and is preparing Chelsea for a tough start in Group B, with matches against Sunderland, Hong Kong champions Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s select.
    “We’ll definitely counter-attack because it’s so hot,” he said. “There are a lot of home-grown teams we enjoy playing against, like Kitchee, who are very fast and quick with their game. We’re bringing the boys out to travel the world, experience another culture and play against teams from across the globe.”
    However, Drummy played down Chelsea’s ambitions for making it third time lucky at the Soccer Sevens and winning the Cup for the first time, the club having reached the final on their debut in 2000.
    “We want to win every game, but the main thing we get out of it is that the players adjust to travelling and see the culture,” Drummy said. “We want to enjoy the tournament and we want to bring the Chelsea brand to Hong Kong. We want to represent Chelsea abroad in the best possible way on the field and hopefully we can do that by winning, but otherwise we want to win people over by the way we play the game.”
    Rangers, finalists in 2009 and 2010, have included Steve Simonsen, the club’s second-choice keeper behind Cammy Bell, in their Soccer Sevens squad. Simonsen, a former England U-21 international, joined the Scottish club last year after spending most of his career with Everton and Stoke City.
    Skilful winger Barrie McKay, who has returned from a loan spell and is looking to win back his place in the first team, will also be a player to watch.
    Gordon Durie has selected his other eight players from his U-20 side who won the Scottish FA Youth Cup on penalties on Tuesday night, having finished runners-up to Celtic by one point in the 2013/14 Scottish PFL U20 League.
    Forwards Calum Gallagher – who made his first-team debut in March – and Jamie Burrows, both 19, and defender Kyle McAusland, 21, all return from last year’s Soccer Sevens squad, when Rangers reached the semi-finals for the second straight year.
    Durie, the former Scotland striker who played for Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers, will again lead the Scottish side in Hong Kong, where ‘Gers’ are the second-seeded side in Group C behind Manchester City.
    Defending champions Leicester City, 2012 winners Newcastle United and five-time champions Aston Villa are the other British clubs competing in the 16-team Main Tournament.
    Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the AFC Champions League last November after securing a third straight Chinese Super League title, will make their tournament debut, while Hong Kong champions Kitchee will lead the local charge along with HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)      
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 14 May 2014 -

    Former England midfielder Carlton Palmer has been added to the Citibank All Stars squad for next week’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, as the side organised by the English PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) bids to win the Masters Tournament for the first time.
    Palmer will make his Soccer Sevens debut at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25 after a career in which the towering central midfielder won 18 caps for England and played for West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.
    Seth Johnson, 35, will also make his tournament debut for the Citibank All Stars, having played for Derby County and Leeds United, and represented England in 2000. Powerful target man Steve Howard, Deon Burton and Jamie Cureton, all in their late 30s, offer lively options up front.
    Frank Sinclair, who spent eight seasons at Chelsea and another six with Leicester City, former Leeds defender Rui Marques and goalkeeper Alan Fettis all return for the 2011 runners-up. Former Leicester defender Gerry Taggart, who won 51 caps for Northern Ireland, and former Aston Villa left-back Alan Wright also join the squad.
    Weber Lo, Citi Country Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong and Macau, said: “Citibank is a proud title sponsor of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens and we are also excited to support the Citibank All Stars, which each year comprises top players selected by English PFA.
    “The presence of former England internationals Carlton Palmer and Seth Johnson and other top players looks set to help the Citibank All Stars as they again bid to win the Masters Tournament, which always features many former stars and internationals and is a popular part of the overall event.”
    Defending champions Rangers Legends and 2012 winners Aegon Ajax All Stars, last year’s runners-up, have already named similar squads to last year, while other teams have recruited strongly for the over-35 tournament.
    England legend Des Walker, who won 59 caps and helped England reach the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, and Jason Lee will again star for Nottingham Forest Mobsters, who have recruited former Blackburn Rovers captain Andy Todd.
    John McGovern, who captained Nottingham Forest to their First Division triumph in 1978 and successive European Cup titles in 1979 and 1980, forms an all-star management team with fellow Forest favourite Neil Webb, whose career also included three seasons at Manchester United and 26 caps for England.
    Alan Thompson, the former Aston Villa and Celtic midfielder, and Michael Bridges, the former Sunderland Leeds forward, will join Soccer Sevens favourite Peter Beardsley in representing Wallsend Boys Club, the legendary youth club in Newcastle where they all learned their football.
    Hong Kong-based Roberto Losada, the 37-year-old Spanish forward who helped Kitchee win the Hong Kong First Division in 2010/11 and 2011/12, has also been recruited to boost the side.
    Kowloon Cricket Club, who won the Masters Plate in 2009, have secured the services of Pat Nevin, the former Chelsea and Everton winger who won 28 Scotland caps from 1986 to 1996.
    In the Main Tournament, newly promoted Leicester City will defend their title against Manchester City and fellow English Premier League clubs Chelsea, Sunderland, 2012 winners Newcastle United and five-time champions Aston Villa, as well as Scottish giants Rangers.
    Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the AFC Champions League last November after securing a third straight Chinese Super League title, will make their tournament debut, while Hong Kong champions Kitchee will lead the local charge along with HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)      
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 13 May 2014 -

    The build-up to the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens kicks off on Saturday with the HKFC Citibank Junior Soccer Sevens at Hong Kong Football Club.
    Now in its fourth year, this will be the largest HKFC Citibank Junior Soccer Sevens ever staged with a total of 80 teams from 19 different clubs from across Hong Kong competing across four age groups – U-9, U-10, U-11 and U-12 – from 8.00am to 6.30pm on Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18.
    The Cup and Plate finals for all age groups will then be played the following weekend during the main HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens (May 23-25).
    Chris Plowman, Tournament Director of the Junior Soccer Sevens, said: “The HKFC Citibank Junior Soccer Sevens is a unique event in that it brings together clubs from all over Hong Kong and from different leagues, so many of these teams rarely play each other. We have staged the Junior Soccer Sevens for the past three years and it has proved to be a huge success. It’s certainly one of the big events in Hong Kong’s junior soccer calendar.”
    This year, Hong Kong champions Kitchee will field their young stars against sides from a variety of soccer schools, including Hong Kong Football Academy, Asia Pacific Soccer Schools, HK Dragons from Discovery Bay, Chelsea Soccer Schools, ESF Lions, Sai Kung Sharks and Brasil Top Skills.
    International schools are also represented in the form of sides from the soccer programmes at Canadian International School and Tai Tam Tigers from Hong Kong International School and, for the first time, Harrow International School. 
    Hosts HKFC will welcome their friends and rivals from Kowloon Cricket Club (KCC), while a strong Japanese contingent will come from ACC Japan, Junior J Leaguers and Dragon Shooters.
    Shenzhen United will be sending teams from across the border, while Southern District will complete the line-up. HKFC and KCC will also be fielding some all-girls teams to take on the boys.
    “It’s great to see the Junior Sevens grow with some new names in the line-up,” Plowman said. “With all teams now confirmed and the draw made, there is much excitement among the competing sides as to who might make the big finals.”
    Teams will play in four pools of five teams, with the top four sides going through to Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield semi-finals. The Bowl and Shield finals will be played on May 17 and 18, and the Cup and Plate finals will take place during the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens on May 24 and 25.
    There will also be a curtain raiser to the Soccer Sevens in the form of an U-8 tournament on the afternoon of Friday, May 23. On the Saturday of the Soccer Sevens, HKFC Crusaders special needs players will feature in an exhibition match, plus there will be an exhibition match between HKFC U-14 Girls and KCC U-14 Girls.
    “It’s such a great opportunity for our young players to have the chance of playing in front of a packed stadium at the Sevens and competing alongside teams from the English Premier League and around the world,” Plowman said. “I really hope that it’s a showcase of all that is good about junior soccer in Hong Kong. There’s sure to be some great football and very exciting matches.”
    The main men’s tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com. Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.

  • Hong Kong, 12 May 2014 -

    England U-18 winger Brandon Barker and former France U-16 striker Thierry Ambrose are among leading players included in Manchester City’s provisional squad for next week’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25.
    The initial 10-man squad has been drawn from Jason Wilcox’s Manchester City U-18 side, who beat West Ham 2-1 on Saturday to reach the playoff final for the 2013/14 Barclays U18 Premier League.
    Wilcox – the former England winger who won the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers – has highlighted Ambrose, Barker and England U-17 forward Denzeil Boadu among key players in a squad that includes age-group internationals from England, France and Spain.
    The 42-year-old hopes his high-flying youngsters will help City improve on their Soccer Sevens debut last year, when they won their group before losing 3-1 to Rangers in the quarter-finals.
    “We’ve had a terrific season so far and we’re still involved in important games here, so it’s nice to finish off the season in Hong Kong and hopefully we’ll go further than we did last year. That’s going to be our objective,” said Wilcox, who first visited Hong Kong with England for a friendly ahead of the 1996 European Championships.
    “We’re going to have a young squad again and we have some players to watch out for. Thierry Ambrose is a striker and has scored a lot of goals this year. Brandon Barker is a wide player who likes to dribble and has tremendous pace and skills.
    “Denzeil Boadu is another forward, great in one-on-one situations and very powerful. He can receive the ball with his back to the goal and he’s turning into a bit of a provider as well. We’ve got some powerful midfielders including Kean Bryan, who’s got a great left foot and is a strong runner, and some defenders who can all play.”
    Wilcox believes City have learnt some lessons from last year’s Soccer Sevens, as they reached the Plate final before losing to five-time champions Aston Villa.
    “We learned an awful lot last year. We learned about the style of play that you need. First of all, you need players that can get around the pitch as it’s a physical test and you must retain the ball,” said Wilcox, who won the 1995 Premier League with Blackburn Rovers and reached the 2001 UEFA Champions League semi-finals with Leeds United.
    “You need good players who can dictate the game and who recognise situations, like when there’s an opportunity to take somebody on in the right areas. You need players who are good in one-on-one situations. Trying to find players who have all of those attributes is difficult, but we think we’ve got all these attributes between our players.”
    Leicester City, recently promoted to the 2014/15 Premier League, will defend their title in the Main Tournament against Manchester City and fellow English clubs Chelsea, Sunderland, 2012 winners Newcastle United and five-time champions Aston Villa, as well as Scottish giants Rangers.
    Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the AFC Champions League last November after securing a third straight Chinese Super League title, will make their tournament debut, while Hong Kong champions Kitchee will lead the local charge along with HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main Tournament include Gary Cahill, Jonny Evans, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters Tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)       
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 08 May 2014 -

    Peter Beardsley has pinpointed fleet-footed Rolando Aarons as Newcastle United’s main attacking threat in this month’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25.
    Beardsley, who played in two World Cups and won 59 caps for England, will again manage Newcastle in Hong Kong, where the 2012 champions will face Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and hosts Hong Kong Football Club in Group A.
    Beardsley, a Newcastle United legend who also won two league titles in four seasons with Liverpool, has high hopes for 18-year-old Aarons, who last month signed a contract with the club’s first team.
    “He’s just signed a new contract with Newcastle and is someone the club are quite excited about. He’s like a flying left winger with good ability … really good ability,” said Beardsley, Newcastle United’s Football Development Manager and a long-time participant in the Soccer Sevens as a player.
    “It’ll be a great experience for him in Hong Kong. He’ll be the standout. He’s good running on the ball, which is what you need on a pitch like that, and he’s one that we’ve got high hopes for in the first team. He’s probably the main one. We expect him to do good things.”
    Goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, 20, is set to play in his third Soccer Sevens and provide the experience and leadership for a squad otherwise selected from Newcastle’s U-18s.
    “Jak has been three years in a row, so he’s obviously got the experience. He loves it,” said Beardsley, who will juggle his managerial duties at the Soccer Sevens with playing for Wallsend Boys Club in the Masters Tournament.
    “He’s a bit older than the other boys and has got the experience. He’s seen and done it, so he’ll help the other kids. Having his voice at the back will be perfect. He can organise them.”
    Beardsley says Newcastle will have an exciting but young squad as they try to regain the title after losing to Leicester City in last year’s Cup final.
    “We’ll be quite young in terms of the team we have, but whatever happens, it will be a brilliant experience for them. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
    “You learn a lot about the young kids that you work with when they’re on tour – what type of character they’ve got, how they fill in their time. It won’t be 24 hours a day football – that’s not what it is. You look at how people enjoy it and make the most of it.”
    Leicester City, recently promoted to the 2014/15 Premier League, will defend their title in the Main Tournament against fellow English clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Sunderland, 2012 winners Newcastle United and five-time champions Aston Villa, as well as Scottish giants Rangers.
    Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the AFC Champions League last November after securing a third straight Chinese Super League title, will make their tournament debut, while Hong Kong champions Kitchee will lead the local charge along with HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and are available at www.cityline.com,.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main Tournament include Gary Cahill, Jonny Evans, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters Tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)      
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 30 April 2014 -

    The larger-than-life Ron Atkinson will be the guest speaker at this year’s Sportsman’s Dinner, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club on Thursday, May 22, as a curtain-raiser to the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens.
    As well as the legendary Atkinson, many of the teams and star players competing in the Soccer Sevens will attend the popular dinner, which offers a limited amount of seats and tables for the public.
    Atkinson, 75, is one of football’s best-known and most charismatic managers, who previously played professionally for over a decade and later became a popular pundit on TV.
    Popularly known as ‘Big Ron’, Atkinson is best known for his managerial career, particularly for his five years in charge of Manchester United (1981-86). Atkinson led Manchester United to FA Cup victories in 1983 and 1985, while in the First Division his side finished third in 1981-82 and 1982-83 before finishing fourth for three straight seasons.
    Atkinson had previously managed Kettering Town, Cambridge United and then West Bromwich Albion, leading the club to fourth place in the 1980-81 season.
    After Manchester United, Atkinson managed Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa – leading them to second place in the 1992-93 Premier League – Coventry City and finally Nottingham Forest.
    Before moving into management, Atkinson spent the majority of his playing career for Oxford United, making over 500 appearances in all competitions in 12 seasons. Playing as wing-half, he was nicknamed ‘The Tank’ and he captained the side in their rise to the Second Division before moving into management in 1971 at the age of 32.
    Tickets for the Sportsman’s Dinner (7.30-11.30pm) are available at HK$7,999 for a table of 12 or HK$800 per person. For tickets or more information, email: info@worldsportgroup.com.hk

  • Hong Kong, 24 April 2014 -

    Finnish legend Jari Litmanen and former Denmark striker Kenneth Perez will return for Aegon Ajax All Stars in this year’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, where the side will bid to regain the Masters title they won in 2012.
    Aron Winter, who played 84 matches for the Netherlands, also returns and is among eight Dutch players in the provisional 10-man squad, which includes defenders Michel Kreek and Ferdi Vierklau, who have also won caps for the Oranje.
    Like Litmanen, Winter made his Soccer Sevens debut last year, but the midfielder broke his arm in the group stage and had to watch from the sidelines as Ajax lost 2-1 to Rangers Legends in the Masters Cup final.
    Winter, who played in three World Cups, said he and the rest of the squad are determined to win back the trophy at Hong Kong Football Club, where the 12-team Masters competition is held alongside the 16-team Main tournament.
    “We come to win, always, like we did two years ago,” said Winter, who helped Netherlands win the 1988 European Championships and played in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups.
    “After we lost the final last year, all the players were determined to do better next time. Last year we had bad luck with all the injuries, to [Michel] Kreek, [Kiki] Musampa and myself.”
    Dick Schoenaker, who played in the 1978 World Cup and won six Dutch league titles with Ajax, will again manage Ajax All Stars and has again retained many of his key players.
    Perez was named Masters Player of the Tournament for the past two years after scoring four times in the 6-1 defeat of Eastern Salon Top Class in the 2012 final and finishing as the top scorer last May with 11 goals.
    Litmanen is another draw card after winning the 1995 UEFA Champions League with Ajax and the 2001 UEFA Cup with Liverpool. The attacking midfielder also played for Barcelona in a long career that included 137 appearances for Finland from 1989 to November 2010, when he netted his 32nd and final goal for his country.
    Winter, who recently captained Ajax veterans in a 3-2 win against their PSV Eindhoven counterparts, is looking forward to reuniting with his former teammates in Hong Kong and competing against international rivals.
    “The Hong Kong Soccer Sevens is great, very well organised and has a nice atmosphere. We love to go there,” said Winter, whose broken arm took six weeks to heal after last year’s tournament.
    “It’s nice to meet former teammates and also the former stars from England and Scotland and other countries. That Hong Kong is such a great, dynamic city is a bonus.”
    Tony Bratsanos, Chairman of the HKFC Soccer Sevens Organising Committee, said Ajax All Stars would again be a leading contender for the Masters title, having retained the majority of last year’s squad.
    “The Aegon Ajax All Stars have been one of the top draws in the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens for the past two years and will always be remembered for their stunning 6-1 victory in the 2012 final. They also had a great battle with Rangers in last year’s final and both teams will again be among the favourites for the Masters Cup this year,” Bratsanos said.
    “Rangers have already confirmed most of their squad, many who won the Masters last year and in 2008, while the fact Ajax have confirmed Jari Litmanen, Aron Winter and Kenneth Perez shows they’re determined to win back the trophy.”
    Leicester City will defend their title in the Main competition against English Premier League clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Sunderland, 2012 winners Newcastle United and five-time champions Aston Villa.
    Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the AFC Champions League last November after securing a third straight Chinese Super League title, will make their tournament debut, while newly crowned Hong Kong champions Kitchee will lead the local charge along with HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening (7.00-9.00pm), May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday (9.00am-8.15pm) before the knockout rounds take place on Sunday (8.00am-7.30pm).
    Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass, and available at www.cityline.com
    Future stars who have competed in the Main Tournament include Gary Cahill, Jonny Evans, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters Tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)      
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 09 April 2014 -

    Former champions Newcastle United will face Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, HKFA U-23 and hosts Hong Kong Football Club in Group A of next month’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held from May 23-25.
    Chelsea are the top seeds in Group B and will face fellow Premier League team Sunderland, Hong Kong champions Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s Select, following the Official Draw at Hong Kong Football Club this afternoon.
    Manchester City, making only their second appearance in the event, will take on Scottish giants Rangers, an HKFA qualifier and Singapore Cricket Club in Group C.
    Defending champions Leicester City, who secured promotion to the Premier League last Saturday, will begin the defence of their title with Group D matches against five-time champions Aston Villa, HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select.
    Chelsea return after last playing two years ago, while the six other British clubs competed last May, when Leicester beat Newcastle 2-0 in the Cup final, which proved a lucky omen ahead of their stunning form in this season’s Championship.
    Guangzhou Evergrande – whose first team won the AFC Champions League last November after their third successive Chinese Super League title – will make their debut under experienced coach Zhou Suian.
    “We are preparing a young team to compete in the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens and although it’s our first time in the tournament, we want to make Guangzhou Evergrande proud because we’re not only representing the club but also Chinese and Asian football,” said Zhou, the club’s U-17 head coach.
    “We have a difficult group with Newcastle United, the HKFA U-23 team and Hong Kong Football Club. Newcastle are very famous, have a great history and are the 2012 champions, so I think they will be favourites to win the group, but the teams from Hong Kong will also be strong, especially as they will be playing at home and are familiar with the tournament.”
    Weber Lo, Citi Country Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong and Macau, said the inclusion of seven British clubs, Guangzhou Evergrande and reigning Hong Kong champions Kitchee should prove appealing to local football fans.
    “It’s exciting to see all the teams in their groups and we can start to feel the tournament taking shape. I know all the teams are interested to see their first opponents at Hong Kong Football Club, where we’re again expecting big crowds,” Lo said.
    “I’m also looking forward to our own Citibank All Stars doing their best in the Masters competition and I know they will have a strong squad this year.”
    Rangers Legends will begin the defence of their Masters title with Group A matches against Wallsend Boys Club and Hong Kong sides USRC (United Services Recreation Club) and Kowloon Cricket Club. Rangers are looking for a third Cup success, after first winning the Masters in 2008.
    Aegon Ajax All Stars, the 2012 champions and last year’s runners-up, were drawn in Group B with local side Eastern Salon and two teams from the host club – HKFC Veterans and HKFC Chairman’s Select.
    Citibank All Stars, finalists in 2011, will face Nottingham Forest Mobsters, KFC Tokyo of Japan and SCC Tigers from Singapore in Group C of the 12-team Masters competition.
    Tony Bratsanos, Chairman of the HKFC Soccer Sevens Organising Committee, was pleased by the increasing diversity and quality of the competition.
    “I think we have one of our strongest-ever line-ups this year, with Chelsea and Manchester City representing two of world football’s biggest clubs, defending champions Leicester City, former winners Newcastle United and Aston Villa, two-time finalists Rangers, and Sunderland,” Bratsanos said.
    “Guangzhou Evergrande’s debut is a sign of the tournament’s increasing regional appeal, while we’re also proud that we’ll again have four professional clubs and three amateur teams from Hong Kong in the Main tournament.”
    Mark Sutcliffe, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Football Association, was confident that Hong Kong would be well represented by reigning champions Kitchee, another First Division club to be confirmed, and HKFA U-23 and U-21 age-group teams.
    “Kitchee won the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens in 2011 and as Hong Kong champions, we expect them to have a strong side, while we’re happy to field two HKFA age-group sides as this will help develop some of the city’s most promising talent,” Sutcliffe said.
    “The HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens is one of the city’s most popular annual tournaments for local players and fans, and we expect another fantastic three days at Hong Kong Football Club.”
    Tickets are on sale from April 14 and are available at www.cityline.com. Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are priced at HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters group games on Friday evening, May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters group games are held on the Saturday before the knockout stages for both competitions take place on Sunday.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main competition include Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior and Boase Cohen & Collins.
    Main Tournament
    Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), HKFA U-23 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)     
    Group B: Chelsea (ENG), Sunderland (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
    Group C: Manchester City (ENG), Rangers (SCO), HKFA Qualifier (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
    Group D: Leicester City (ENG), Aston Villa (ENG), HKFA U-21 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
    Masters Tournament
    Group A: Rangers Legends (SCO), Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG)
    Group B: Aegon Ajax All Stars (NED), Eastern Salon (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
    Group C: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), KFC Tokyo (JPN), SCC Tigers (SIN)

  • Hong Kong, 01 April 2014 -

    Rangers Legends have confirmed Spanish striker Nacho Novo for the defence of their Masters title at next month’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25.
    Peter Beardsley will return to the Masters competition, but this time will play for debutants Wallsend Boys Club, the historic Newcastle-based youth club that has groomed over 60 professional players including Beardsley and fellow England internationals Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick.
    Aegon Ajax All Stars, the 2012 champions and last year’s runners-up, Citibank All Stars and Nottingham Forest Mobsters will join Rangers among the top four seeds.
    Wallsend are in the second four-team tier of seeds for next week’s draw along with 2010 champions KFC Tokyo of Japan and local clubs Eastern Salon and USRC (United Services Recreation Club).
    Two Hong Kong Football Club teams, Kowloon Cricket Club and Singapore Cricket Club round out the 12-team draw, which will be split into four three-team groups.
    Rangers, who won their first Masters title in 2008, are already forming a formidable and familiar squad in their bid to win the Cup for a third time.
    Former Netherlands striker Michael Mols, Trinidadian centre-back Marvin Andrews and Scottish stars Alex Rae, Charlie Miller, Derek Ferguson, Scott Nisbet and goalkeeper Andy Goram are all set to return from last year’s winning squad.
    Novo, who turned 35 last Wednesday, is the only new addition so far. Midfielder Rae believes Novo could form a fearsome partnership with Mols, the Spaniard having taken over the Dutchman’s number 10 shirt when he joined Rangers in July 2004.
    “Up front, Mikey’s technically very good and little Nacho will provide the legs this year. It’s always good to get one or two younger ones into the squad,” said Rae, who helped Rangers win the 2004/05 Scottish Premier League in the first of his two seasons as teammates with Novo.
    “Nacho’s a terrific little player. He scored the winning goal in the last game of the 2004/05 season which secured the title, so I have fond memories of the little man.”
    Rae, who played for Sunderland and Wolves in the English Premier League before moving back to Scotland in 2004, said Rangers Legends are determined to retain their Masters title in Hong Kong.
    “To be fair, the boys always take it very seriously. I think that’s reflected by the fact we’ve won it twice. We take it seriously and I think that’s the way to approach it,” Rae said.
    “We won it on my first visit to Hong Kong. There’s one or two of us still remaining from that team, including Andy [Goram], who was sensational that first year. He tore his hamstring, but continued playing and if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have won it. That’s a fact.”
    Weber Lo, Citi Country Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong and Macau, welcomed back the defending Masters champions.
    “Rangers Legends are a credit to the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens and were deserving winners last year after an excellent final against the Aegon Ajax All Stars, who themselves were great champions in 2012,” Lo said.
    “It’s a pleasure to welcome back the defending champions for the Masters competition and it looks like Rangers have already organised a very strong squad to defend their title. And of course, I also look forward to receiving our own Citibank All Stars who reached the final in 2011.”
    In the Main competition, Leicester City will defend their title, while English Premier League clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sunderland, Scottish giants Rangers and Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande are also among the top eight seeds in the 16-team competition.
    Chelsea last played two years ago, while the six other British clubs competed last May, when Leicester beat 2012 champions Newcastle 2-0 in the Cup final. Guangzhou Evergrande, whose first team won last year’s AFC Champions League, are making their tournament debut under experienced coach Zhou Suian.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters pool games on Friday evening, May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters pool games are held on the Saturday before the knockout stages for both competitions take place on Sunday.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main competition include Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior and Boase Cohen & Collins.

  • Hong Kong, 20 March 2014 -

    Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande will make their tournament debut at this year’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 23-25.
    Winners of the Chinese Super League for the last three years, Guangzhou Evergrande will feature among the top eight seeds with English Premier League clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sunderland, holders Leicester City and Scottish giants Rangers, who will all field youth and academy sides.
    Experienced coach Zhou Suian will manage the young Guangzhou Evergrande side, as the club make their tournament debut just months after winning the AFC Champions League for the first time and finishing fourth in the FIFA Club World Cup.
    “As the reigning Asian champions, Guangzhou Evergrande are proud to be making our tournament debut at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens,” Zhou said.
    “Our senior team has won the Chinese Super League for three years and made China proud with our AFC Champions League victory, so we’re very excited to compete in Hong Kong but we also feel a responsibility to perform well.
    “We’ll have a very young side and it will be our first time, so it will be difficult against so many famous clubs from England, Scotland and Hong Kong, but we’ll do our best.”
    Guangzhou won their third straight Chinese Super League title by 18 points last November before edging FC Seoul on the away goals rule to win the AFC Champions League final and become China’s first continental champions since Liaoning in 1990.
    Zhou, 53, said Guangzhou Evergrande’s participation in the popular Hong Kong tournament reflects their growing international profile, yet is still convenient for a club who only need to take a bus to reach the city.
    “This tournament is very international with many world-famous clubs, but it’s almost local for us because Hong Kong is so close,” Zhou said. “We hope to have a few supporters join us at the tournament and hopefully we’ll make some new friends when we’re there.”
    Tony Bratsanos, Chairman of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens Organising Committee, believes the addition of Guangzhou to the tournament has created a unique line-up for football fans.
    “Guangzhou Evergrande’s participation in the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens for the first time is a sign that the event is evolving and widening its scope. As the reigning champions in China and Asia, they are a huge addition and we are excited they will be among eight pro clubs coming to Hong Kong,” Bratsanos said.
    “Chelsea are currently leading the Premier League, so our 16-team Main competition currently features the best of England, the best of Asia, the best of China and the best of Hong Kong, which is a real coup.
    “There’s a great range of top teams to watch and support. We will soon confirm the line-up of teams in the Masters tournament, which will again feature a wide range of famous international stars.”
    Chelsea last played two years ago, while the six other British clubs competed last May, when Leicester beat 2012 champions Newcastle 2-0 in the Cup final.
    Most of the British clubs will be fielding players between the ages of 17 to 21 as they bid to win a tournament that each year features future Premier League and international stars. Aston Villa have won the event a record five times.
    Four HKFA teams will be confirmed nearer the time, while amateur sides Hong Kong Football Club, HKFC Captain’s Select, Yau Yee League Select and Singapore Cricket Club will also compete in the 16-team Main competition. The line-up of the 12-team Masters competition will be announced soon and ticket details will be confirmed in April.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters pool games on Friday evening, May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters pool games are held on the Saturday before the knockout stages for both competitions take place on Sunday.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main competition include Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon and The Excelsior.
     

  • Hong Kong, 13 March 2014 -

    Premier League sides Manchester City, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sunderland, and Scottish giants Rangers will be among the teams challenging holders Leicester City (pictured above) at this year’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens.
    The 15th edition of the tournament will be held from May 23-25 at Hong Kong Football Club, host venue since the inaugural event in 1999.
    Chelsea will compete for only the second time after making their debut two years ago, while the six other British clubs competed last May, when Leicester beat 2012 champions Newcastle 2-0 in the Cup final.
    Most of the British clubs will be fielding players between the ages of 17 to 21 as they bid to win a tournament that each year features future Premier League and international stars. Aston Villa have won the event a record five times.
    Despite the array of Premier League clubs on display, Leicester City Academy Director Jon Rudkin said the club are keen to defend their Cup title as they make a third straight appearance in Hong Kong.
    “It’s a terrific tournament to be involved in and we’re delighted to be coming back to defend the title in 2014. Winning the Cup last year was a fantastic achievement for the players involved,” Rudkin said.
    “Having won the Shield the previous year, to go on and win the Main tournament in only our second appearance was a feat everyone at the club was extremely proud of. The players involved in both visits learned a great deal about the format from the first time and used that experience with real intelligence when we came back last year.”
    Rudkin and his young charges hope they’ll be part of a newly promoted club by the time they head for Hong Kong, with Leicester’s first team currently leading England’s second-tier Championship.
    “It will be a very good test for our young players in a very intense environment and I’m sure it will be another valuable learning experience for them,” Rudkin said. “We have a lot of faith in our young players, who have shown in the last two years that we’re very capable of competing while playing some exciting football.”
    Mark Allen, Manchester City’s Head of Academy, said the Blues are looking forward to building on their debut last year, when they were knocked out in the Cup quarter-finals by Rangers and lost to Aston Villa in the Shield final.
    “I thought it was a fantastic experience. It was well organised and well coordinated, and equivalent to any top tournament I’ve been to. It was a pleasant surprise that it was so well organised,” Allen said.
    “I thought the format was fantastic and it was also great from the development perspective as well. We’re all really looking forward to coming back.”
    Weber Lo, Citi Country Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong and Macau, said the confirmation of seven leading British clubs signalled the tournament’s growing reputation.
    “We’re delighted that Leicester City are back to defend their title at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens as we also welcome back Manchester City, Chelsea, Rangers, Sunderland and former champions Aston Villa and Newcastle,” Lo said.
    “It’s exciting to announce seven such major clubs so early and it’s recognition of the tournament’s world-class reputation that these teams keep returning to Hong Kong Football Club. Citibank is proud to title sponsor such an international tournament in Asia for the fourth year, and we look forward to another great and exciting tournament this May.”
    Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon and The Excelsior hotel.
    The remaining sides in the 16-team Main competition and the line-up of the 12-team Masters competition will be announced soon, while ticket details will be announced in April.
    The tournament will start with the opening round of Masters pool games on Friday evening, May 23. All the Main group matches and the remaining Masters pool games are held on the Saturday before the knockout stages for both competitions take place on Sunday.
    Future stars who have competed in the Main competition include Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Marc Albrighton, David Bentley, Anton Ferdinand, Sammy Ameobi and Shaun Maloney.
    The Masters tournament has featured former England internationals Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker, Andy Cole and Matt Le Tissier, German legends Jurgen Klinsmann and Pierre Littbarski, former France winger Didier Six and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen.

  • Hong Kong, 26 May 2013 -

    Leicester City won the Soccer Sevens for the first time when they stunned defending champions Newcastle United in the Cup final.
    First-half goals from Michael Cain and Harry Panayiotou gave the Foxes a memorable 2-0 victory and brought to an end Newcastle’s 11-game winning streak in the tournament.
    Leicester won the second-tier Shield on their first visit to Hong Kong 12 months ago but this year the Championship club upstaged their Premier League counterparts – who also included Manchester City and Aston Villa – to lift the Cup.
    “We had the experience of playing in last year’s tournament and I think we also benefited from the freshness of the new players we brought this time,” said coach Jon Rudkin. “There are some excellent teams here so we’re delighted to be winning a tournament of this standard.”
    Leicester lost 2-0 to Newcastle in their group clash on Saturday and Rudkin said his team had used that experience to prepare for the final.
    “We learnt a lot from that first game,” he revealed. “We were aware Newcastle had some excellent players and they’ve been tremendous in this tournament, not just this year but last year as well. But we knew the final was a one-off game so we just had to dig in and give it a go.”
    Rudkin paid tribute to 18-year-old striker Panayiotou, who scored five goals during the weekend and was named Player of the Tournament.
    “He’s a strong boy, he’s hard to mark and he’s always going to go and get you goals. He’s done well here. But all the players have stood out with the way they have coped with the heat and competed so well in this tournament environment. I’m delighted with them.”
    Captain Alie Sesay hailed his teammates. “The average age of our team was about 18.4 years, so we were one of the youngest teams here,” he said. “Not only that, we were up against some big hitters like Manchester City and Aston Villa, which made us the underdogs, but we’ve proved ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Premier League or not.
    “We got off to a quick start in the final which was great for our belief. Michael Cain and Harry Panayiotou are quality players and when they got us ahead we grew in confidence.”
    After winning all six of their matches at the Soccer Sevens last year, Newcastle won their first five this time around but had no answer to Leicester’s flying start.
    Coach Willie Donachie refused to be downhearted. “The first goal is important in a tournament like this and especially in a final,” he said. “But the players gave everything they had and hopefully they’ll learn from the experience.”
    Earlier, Leicester knocked out five-time Soccer Sevens winners Aston Villa with a thrilling 4-3 victory in extra time of their quarter-final.
    Leicester raced into a three-goal lead thanks to Jak McCourt and a Panayiotou double before Villa replied with two goals from Jack Grealish, the second a penalty, and Jerell Sellars. But Leicester bounced back to win it with a golden goal from Cain.
    Panayiotou was on target again to give the Foxes a 1-0 win over Sunderland in the semi-finals.
    Rudkin praised Soccer Sevens organisers for their efforts in putting on the event, which was first played in 1999. “It’s an outstanding tournament. We’re very privileged to be invited and to be able to play here,” he said.
    “We want to thank our owners for providing us with the opportunity to come to Hong Kong and we’d like to thank Hong Kong Football Club for putting on such a fantastic event. It’s certainly the best youth tournament that I’ve been involved in.”
     
    Released on behalf of the HKFC Citbank International Soccer Sevens by Two Up Front – Asia's sports PR specialists.

  • Hong Kong, 26 May 2013 -

    The Rangers All Stars showed they had lost none of their magic after five years away from the Soccer Sevens as they lifted the Masters Cup.
    The Scottish giants gave a superb team display to stun the defending champions, the Aegon Ajax All Stars, 2-1 in an entertaining final.
    Midfielder Alex Rae was the man of the moment with a superb left-foot strike midway through the second half to give Rangers victory. Midfielder Jörg “The Hammer” Albertz had put the Ibrox old boys ahead with a penalty before Kenneth Pérez equalised for Ajax, also from the spot.
    Rae was one of four players – the others being goalkeeper Andy Goram, Derek Ferguson and Mark Walters – who won the Masters Cup with the Rangers All Stars in 2008, their last appearance in the Soccer Sevens until this year.
    “I’m absolutely delighted, the boys worked really hard for this,” said Rae. “It’s great to come back and win it again after five years. Many of us have been back here in the meantime, playing for other teams, but this is the first time we’ve had an official Rangers team since then.
    “The fact this win has come against Ajax makes it even more special because they are a brilliant team.”
    Rae was especially happy with his goal. “It was great because I’m right footed and I just took a swing with my left and it flew in. I’ve told Jörg Albertz that now I should be known as ‘The Hammer’!”
    Ajax had been hot favourites to retain the title they won in such style last year and this time added Champions League winner and 137-cap Finland hero Jari Litmanen to their powerful line-up.
    But Rangers also beefed up their squad with Dutch duo Arthur Numan and Michael Mols and Germany’s Albertz.
    Coach Ian Durrant confirmed that Mols’ presence in attack had been a crucial factor. “Michael is a fantastic football player and he gave us some speed and threat up front, which you need in these types of games,” said Durrant.
    “If you look at Ajax they have some tremendous players and we knew we had to work hard as a team to compete against them. But we had a very good team as well, plus fantastic support from the Rangers fans here in Hong Kong.”
    Former Denmark striker Pérez, with an incredible 11 goals during the weekend, was named Masters Player of the Tournament for the second year running.
     
    Released on behalf of the HKFC Citbank International Soccer Sevens by Two Up Front – Asia's sports PR specialists.

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