Liverpool, Boca add star power to Sevens
Liverpool and Argentinian giants Boca Juniors will make their debuts in next month's HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens, coupled with a maiden appearance by former Italy captain Franco Baresi, one of the game's greatest defenders.
Featuring 16 teams - which also include defending champions and five-time winners Aston Villa, Celtic, Rangers and Dutch giants Ajax - the three-day tournament will take place on the artificial turf at the Hong Kong Football Club from May 13-15.
Baresi, who won three Champions League titles with AC Milan and was a member of the Italy squad that won the 1982 World Cup, will lead AC Milan Soccer Schools in the Masters event, which will involve 12 teams.
Since its inauguration in 1999, the tournament has developed into the world's premier seven-a-side soccer event. While the main competition has become famous for unearthing the 'stars of tomorrow', the masters section features former elite players from Europe's top leagues.
'Liverpool will be sending players from their reserve team and at the moment they are doing well in the reserve league,' said Mick Lonergan from the organising committee. 'We can guarantee they will send the best of their youth team players as this tournament is meant for the juniors. We will have more details of the squad closer to the tournament.'
Liverpool's hopes of topping the reserve league (Northern Group B) were shattered, however, after a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on Monday night. The result means Pep Segura's side remain four points behind leaders Blackburn Rovers with just one game to play.
'Boca Juniors are the club where Diego Maradona played early in his career and they have a fantastic record of producing outstanding young footballers,' Lonergan said. 'It is the first time we have had a major South American team involved in the Sevens and we're sure Hong Kong fans will be looking forward to seeing Boca Juniors, together with Liverpool.'
The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) will field their under-21 and under-18 squads for the first time, while First Division leaders Kitchee and Senior Shield champions Citizen will underline the strong local presence.
'The under-21 side is our hope for the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin and their appearance at the Sevens can certainly give them more international exposure,' HKFA general secretary Vincent Yuen Man-chuen said. Hong Kong won the championship as hosts in 2009 and are keen to repeat their success.
The draw made yesterday set up a clash between Liverpool and Celtic in pool A, which also comprises the Hong Kong under-18 side and Yau Yee League Select.
Boca Juniors' opponents in pool B will include Rangers, Hong Kong under-21s and Singapore Cricket Club. Villa will meet Citizen, Eastleigh and HKFC Captain's Select in pool C, while Ajax, Kitchee, Etoile and HKFC will do battle in pool D. After the group stage, there will be knockout matches for the Cup, Shield and Plate.
Entry on the first day is free, while adult tickets cost HK$200 for two days - or HK$120 for one day. Children under the age of 16 are allowed in free throughout the tournament.