HKFA 'hopeful' of luring Argentina for October international friendly

South American nation's response to being invited to mark association's centenary has been 'positive'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 12:11am

World powerhouses Argentina have been invited to play an international friendly to mark the Hong Kong Football Association's 100th anniversary in October.

The governing body originally targeted teams from Europe to play against Hong Kong, but it is understood England, Germany and the Netherlands have turned down invitations as they will be engaged in European Championship qualifiers.

"We have approached Argentina and the response is positive," said HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak yesterday.

He added that plans were in place for Argentina to face fellow South Americans Brazil in an exhibition match at the Bird's Nest National Stadium in Beijing on October 11, and that "it will be convenient to get them down to Hong Kong afterwards".

"Argentina will certainly be a big crowd puller with so many top stars," Leung said. "We can also save a lot of money on airfares by bringing them from Beijing rather than Buenos Aires. But it is still being negotiated and we will step up the process as time is running short. Hopefully, it can be confirmed within six weeks."

Brazil were also contacted, but have shown little interest.

The HKFA is banking on financial support from the government's Mega Events Fund, the same backer that provided HK$8 million to help First Division side Kitchee bring Manchester United here last summer.

A Lionel Messi-led Argentina would likely be asking for an appearance fee of around US$3 million, plus air fares and first class hospitality. The HKFA therefore faces a bill of up to HK$25 million.

"We are planning for support from the Mega Events Fund as no single body can afford the huge expenses, but we must first confirm the team before we can start the application process," said Leung. "If we can offset some expenses by government funding, all we need to do is to secure an event title sponsor plus several other co-sponsors, then we can solve the financial problem."

HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said the body would ask Argentina to bring a full team. He also hoped the match could turn a profit to strengthen their financial situation.

"We are now working out the budget and ticket prices, and negotiations are still under way," he said. "We will probably set ticket prices at a level that enables us to at least break even and hopefully make some profit. We need to make some money for the Football Association."

The Mega Events Fund's Tier-1 scheme provides financial assistance to attract new or established high-profile mega events to Hong Kong, such as sports events involving top international teams.

These events should have a strong international appeal, be able to generate wide international media coverage and attract a considerable numbers of visitors to Hong Kong. A match against the Argentina national team would fit those requirements.