South China pick Butt for AFC Cup

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 February, 2011, 12:00am

South China kept faith in their former England midfield star Nicky Butt by naming him as one of their three foreign players for the Asian Football Confederation Cup.

The 35-year-old (pictured) played only the last 10 minutes in the League Cup semi-finals against Kitchee 10 days ago and was not even on the bench when South China defeated Tuen Mun 1-0 in the league on Saturday because of a calf strain. But club convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing believes the Manchester United legend will have a key role to play when they challenge for the regional cup.

Reaching the AFC Cup final would guarantee South China a qualifying spot for the region's top-tier competition - the Asian Champions League - next season.

'His experience is second to none in the team,' Lo said. 'His presence will not only stabilise our defence but also give us more options in attack.

'The only worry is about his injury, but since he is now clear to play after consulting the physician, there should not be any problem'

The Caroliners had filled two of their three foreign-player quota with Brazilian centre-half Joel Bertoti Padilha and Serbian striker Mateja Kezman. Butt was included as the deadline for naming the squad closed yesterday.

Lo defended the club's decision to raise the ticket price for students and the elderly for the three home AFC Cup games from last year's HK$20 to HK$60. The regular ticket price will be HK$20 more than last year's HK$60 at HK$80.

'We have specially recruited key players for the AFC Cup and there is cost involved,' he said. 'Also, there is additional budget for taking part in the competition and we have to cover part of these costs through gate receipts so we can continue bringing decent soccer to the fans.'

It is believed that the arrival of Butt and Kezman in January has cost South China an additional budget of HK$10 million, while the Caroliners also have to pay for their two Brazilians - Joel and Giovane da Silva, another January addition to the club's strikeforce. South China also signed two Hong Kong internationals - Chan Wai-ho and Ng Wai-chiu - when the transfer window reopened last month.

The Caroliners travel to Macau for a training match against the hosts tomorrow, their last warm-up before their AFC Cup campaign kicks off with a group H clash against Indonesian side Persipura Jayapura at Hong Kong Stadium on March 2.

Both Butt and Kezman are expected to start in the training match to build an improved understanding with their teammates.