Kitchee boss urges fans to show support

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2011, 12:00am


New Hong Kong champions Kitchee fear the visit by top Spanish side Villarreal this week could turn into another loss-making exercise.

About HK$6 million has to be raised before any money can be donated to help the survivors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

And Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin called on the public yesterday to show their support by turning up for the Canon Cup against Villarreal at Hong Kong Stadium on Friday.

Previous visits by foreign teams have failed to make a profit.

But Ng (pictured) said: 'I hope we won't be embarrassed by a poor crowd and we are able to raise a substantial amount for charity. We need to sell at least 10,000 tickets before we can contribute anything sizeable.'

The match against Villarreal, who finished fourth in La Liga, is to celebrate Kitchee's 80th anniversary.

It will feature a guest appearance for the local side by Japanese legend Hidetoshi Nakata.

Stars of Spain's World Cup-winning side Joan Capdevila and Carlos Marchena are also expected to play.

Ng said: 'The original idea behind this match was to celebrate our 80th anniversary. I was in Barcelona tying up this deal on March 11 when I heard about the disaster. The idea then struck me - why not do something meaningful?'

While organisers will donate a percentage from every ticket sold, Ng has also pledged to give all profits to the quake victims once the costs of staging the game have been covered.

He said: 'It will cost us HK$6 million. Of this, around half has been met by our sponsors, which leaves us still needing to sell around HK$4 million worth of tickets, taking into account a government levy as well as a sanction fee, before breaking even.'

Kitchee will have to pay 20 per cent of proceeds from ticket sales as hiring costs for the stadium to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. In addition, the Hong Kong Football Association will receive a 5 per cent sanctioning fee.

'If we cover our costs, everything else will go through Unicef to the Japanese earthquake victims. I hope the Hong Kong public, as well as the Japanese and Spanish communities, will show their support by turning up in large numbers,' Ng said.

He is hoping Nakata, who retired internationally in 2006, and Villarreal will have sufficient pulling power.

'Nakata has figured in a number of games for the earthquake victims in the past few weeks, the latest being in Thailand a week ago where they raised around HK$4 million. I hope we can come close to matching that,' Ng said.

'Nakata is an icon in Japan and, although retired, still plays very good football. He immediately supported the idea.

'In the past month, he has played in charity events in Thailand, Singapore and Italy, raising funds for his countrymen,' Ng added.

Despite the presence of Nakata and a string of Spanish stars, Ng is still worried about the turnout.

'We have still to turn a profit from games featuring overseas teams in Hong Kong,' he admitted.

'In 2004 we brought AC Milan and Newcastle to play against us and that was a loss-making exercise.

'It was the same in 2005 [Juventus], 2006 [Shanghai Shenhua] and 2007 [Barcelona].

'We were on course to making a huge profit when Barcelona visited, but unfortunately Typhoon Signal No8 went up and we were forced to refund HK$4 million worth of tickets. We ended up in the red,' Ng recalled.

'I hope this time we can turn a profit. It is for a good cause. If we can give a couple of million dollars to charity, I will be happy.

'We will need a half-full stadium to achieve that goal and I appeal to the fans to turn up.'

Tickets, now on sale at the HKFA offices in Ho Man Tin and at the stadium box office, cost HK$400 with HK$50 going to the charity, HK$300 (HK$50 to charity), HK$220 (HK$40) and HK$150 (HK$30).