PUMA and Carlsberg are all set to give Hong Kong soccer a double shot in the arm.
German sports goods manufacturers Puma are planning to sponsor Chinese players from the Hong Kong League to train with German First Division teams, while Dutch beer giants Carlsberg are trying to secure three World Cup teams for the Lunar New Year Carlsberg Cup from January 31-February 3.
Jochen Zeitz, chief executive officer of Puma International, yesterday revealed that their German headquarters will liaise with their sole agent in Hong Kong, the Hwa Kay Thai Group, on the project.
Zeist said he would arrange for selected players to train with top German sides like Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt, who are sponsored by Puma.
HKTG chief executive officer Wong Chong-shan, chairman of Hong Kong First Division side Seiko in the 1970s and 80s, is the man behind the project.
'I want to see more talented players, especially the young ones being trained professionally,' said the 'football crazy' Wong. 'But I have to say that it's only a rough plan and there is a lot still to do.' Wong said that they would co-operate with the Hong Kong Football Association but details will not be confirmed until permission is granted by the local governing body.
The reopening date of the Hong Kong Stadium, due to close for up to three months in December for work to be carried out on the troublesome pitch, will obviously affect potential teams for the Carlsberg Cup.
Carlsberg public relations manager Derek Currie yesterday said that talks with the Stadium management team of Wembley International would be arranged within a fortnight.
'We'll suggest that Wembley closes the Stadium after the High Noon in Hong Kong boxing event on October 23,' said Currie. 'Then it will be able to reopen for the Carlsberg Cup.' Currie said the Lunar New Year Cup would feature a Hong Kong League XI and three World Cup teams from USA '94 from Europe, South America and Asia.
'We always aim at bringing the best soccer to Hong Kong,' said Currie. 'But there will be a slight change of the plan if we can't have the Stadium.' South China midfield star Leslie Santos underwent a successful operation on his knee in Zeist, Holland, on Friday.
Santos has torn the cruciate ligament in his left knee twice over the past two seasons and has been sidelined for the last 10 months.
South China announced that a small piece of cartilage was taken from Santos' left knee and the player will receive physiotherapy next week.
According to the midfielder, the piece of cartilage, which caused a clicking sound in his knee, was left 'by mistake' after his second operation in Hong Kong a few months ago.
Eastern are set to sign their seventh foreign player in a bid to strengthen their squad for the second leg of the Asian Clubs Championship second round clash with J.League leaders Verdy Kawasaki in Tokyo on October 17.
Eastern manager Peter Leung Shou-chi said the player might stay for the season and will reveal his identity tomorrow.