Essien 'to lead World All-Star side' in HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am

Chelsea's Michael Essien is likely to lead a strong 20-member World All-Star team when they take on a joint Hong Kong and China squad in next month's Reunification Cup.

The 24-year-old Ghana international, who joined the Stamford Bridge side in the summer of 2005 at an estimated cost of #24 million (HK$369.6 million), has been instrumental in the star-studded Chelsea midfield.

'More than 30 letters have been sent out to individual players with the recommendation of Fifa and we hope we can put together a star team of around 20 for the Reunification Cup match,' said a source close to the organisers. 'Essien is one of the top players we have targeted and as he is very likely to make the Hong Kong trip.'

The Cup is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region next month.

Reports in Japan said that former national player Nakata Hidetoshi, 29, who quit after the World Cup, will play for the All-Star team.

A total of three matches will be held on July 1 at the Hong Kong Stadium, but the feature game will be the All-Star team against Hong Kong and China.

The other big match will be between Bayern Munich of Germany and Brazilian side Sao Paulo, with the German side bringing their two new signings - Franck Ribery of France and Italian Luca Toni. The opening contest will be between Hong Kong celebrities and Beijing celebrities. And the cost for the day-long soccer festival is a fan-friendly HK$60 per ticket.

Meanwhile, veteran striker Au Wai-lun has decided to hang up his boots after failing to come to terms with his club South China over a new deal.

Au, one of the best local players over the past decade, had been asked by the club to take a 50 per cent salary cut.

'I do have the dignity of a professional player and the terms are just unacceptable,' he said yesterday.

The 35-year-old, who won his second Footballer of the Year Award last year, said he had no regrets after spending so many years in top-flight football.

Dream team

Hong Kong organisers are trying to put together a World All-Star squad of 20