Spurs showpiece 'proves HK has huge potential'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong FA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said more exhibition matches will be held in the near future featuring top sides after the success of yesterday's match between South China and English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

But Leung urged the Hong Kong government to play a bigger role and help ease costs to ensure teams such as Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal appear here more regularly.

Although Leung was pleased with yesterday's attendance of 23,025, the highest figure for the year, he felt more could be done to help attract visits by the big clubs and fill Hong Kong Stadium to its 40,000 capacity.

South China humbled Tottenham 2-0 to win the Panasonic Invitation Cup and give their season a huge boost. Spurs, who played their third match inside five days, suffered only their second pre-season defeat in five years having lost to Scottish giants Celtic last weekend at Wembley.

Although the crowd was short of the 28,000 sold tickets needed to break even with Spurs costing a reported HK$5 million appearance fee, Leung was pleased.

'I think it was very good because it was very hot today. We need these exhibition matches for the fans and we have to make the tickets affordable for them, too,' said Leung.

'But we need people coming in other than sponsors. We need government support. Chelsea went to Saudi Arabia to play an exhibition match last year even though they asked for ?.2 million (HK$15.5 million), plus hotel and air-fare, the Saudi government came in and paid a large proportion of that.'

Leung said tickets for yesterday's extravaganza - where the most expensive seats were HK$250 - were not expensive. 'If you go to attend a concert, it will cost you HK$500 and ours was the price for two games,' said Leung.

However, South China convener Steven Lo Kit-sing said he was disappointed with yesterday's attendance, saying the club will suffer a financial loss of a 'few hundred thousand dollars'.

'We won't lose too much and it's disappointing that a bigger crowd didn't come to watch today. It was a very hard game to organise. We were hoping that between 25,000 and 30,000 fans would show up,' said Lo.

Yesterday's attendance produced just over HK$4 million in gate receipts and Lo said the hot weather played a big part in the 'disappointing' turn out.

On the hottest day of the year, made more uncomfortable by the high level of pollution, it was the Caroliners - not Spurs - who delivered for fans to return home happy. It was a tedious first half despite the urging of a group of 100-plus Spurs supporters sitting in the North Stand, but things brightened after the big guns were brought on to replace a crop of ineffective youngsters.

When striker Robbie Keane and midfielder Jermaine Jenas came on upon resumption of play they immediately looked more effective, but South China struck out of the blue. Chan Siu-ki intercepted a Spurs throw-in and with one eye on the Spurs goal, he volleyed a superb 25-metre shot that sailed over the outreached arms of Heurelho Gomes.

The Caroliners extended their lead from the penalty spot after Jake Livermore was controversially adjudged to have impeded Chao Pengfei inside the Spurs box. Skipper Li Haiqiang cheekily tapped the ball in the middle from the spot with Gomes diving the wrong way.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was disappointed with the outcome but saluted South China for their grit. 'It was a good game and full credit to the home team who played well and worked hard and they turned in a good performance. It was a good game for the young players and it was a good experience for them,' said Redknapp.

'The fans were fantastic and they were great supporters. The first strike was a fantastic strike and the last time [Li Haiqiang] scored an amazing strike against Liverpool when I was last here two years ago [for Barclays Asia Trophy with Portsmouth].

'We had some good opportunities and you have to score from those,' he added.

Chan was delighted with his spectacular goal. 'When I scored the goal, I was overjoyed,' said Chan.

'I didn't expect to score such a beautiful effort.'

Big money

Appearance fee Tottenham were reportedly paid (in HK$) to play in Hong Kong: 5m