The season's worst-kept secret is now official - champions Manchester City are to highlight an exciting line-up this summer as the popular English Premier League (EPL) Asia Trophy returns to Hong Kong.
City, who are second in the table behind arch-rivals Manchester United, will join fellow Premier League sides Tottenham and Sunderland and local domestic powerhouses South China in the four-team tournament at Hong Kong Stadium in July, organisers confirmed yesterday. Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak was delighted the tournament was making its way back to Hong Kong after playing to full houses in 2007 and 2011.
"It's always our priority to bring world-class soccer to Hong Kong," said Leung. "We have been working very closely with the EPL to have the event back in our city and I can now confirm the tournament will be held in Hong Kong this summer for the third time.
"Many of our fans follow the English Premier League very closely. The Asia Trophy has been held successfully here before, and I am sure this is very good news for our fans, especially with such a strong cast." South China, who represented Hong Kong in 2007 when Liverpool, Fulham and Portsmouth played here, have been invited by the EPL to take part in the tournament on July 24 and 27.
Club convener Steven Lo Kit-sing said his club had learnt a lot from the Premier League stars playing in previous editions of the tournament.
"This is going to be another good opportunity for our boys," said Lo. "Although there is a big gap between the Premier League sides and our own domestic league, we will prepare properly for this tournament. Hopefully, more fans will come to support the home team so that we can put up a good fight." Lo also said they might invite guest players for the tournament to strengthen the squad but he cautioned it was too early to say.
The 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium was almost filled when the last two Asia Trophy events were held, thanks partly to the affordable ticket prices of less than HK$500.
However, with costs such as hotels and transport having increased significantly over the last two years, ticket prices will be adjusted, organisers warned.
"We will be discussing ticket prices with the EPL and there may be some adjustments," said Leung. "But I am sure they will still be affordable and worth every penny,"