Olympic visitors save tournament

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2007, 12:00am

Under-23 teams from China, Jamaica and Australia have been confirmed for the Lunar New Year Cup to be held at Hong Kong Stadium next month.

The Hong Kong League XI will complete the line-up for the two-day knockout tournament on February 18 and 21.

The tournament, previously known as the Carlsberg Cup, was originally going to be axed because of difficulties in attracting quality teams.

But the appearance of the three Olympic squads has saved the tournament, though in a downgraded form and without a sponsor.

Both Australia and Jamaica are preparing for their Olympic qualifying tournaments, while China will make use of the opportunity to test their strength after a training stint in Europe.

Australia, who reached the quarter-finals in Athens in 2004, will arrive in Hong Kong on February 8 after their home qualifying leg against Taiwan and will stay here before flying to Taiwan for the return leg on February 14.

Jamaica will be led by former China national coach Serbian Bora Milutinovic, the only coach to have taken five different nations to the World Cup finals, including China in 2002.

Meanwhile, holders Kitchee are eager to repeat their success in the League Cup, which kicks off at Mong Kong Stadium today.

Former Cameroon international Francis Yonga joined the club on the eve of the tournament and the striker, who played in Indonesia before coming to Hong Kong, is likely to make his debut against Hong Kong 08 in group A. The other group A match today features Lanwa Redbull and WoFoo Tai Po.

The tournament is contested by 10 teams in two groups. The other group A teams are Xiangxue Sun Hei. Group B comprises South China, Rangers, Happy Valley, Citizen and Football Club.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals. The final offers a winning purse of HK$80,000.