Paris Saint-Germain light up Hong Kong Stadium - but organisers fail to break even
Zlatan Ibrahimovic nets hat-trick against Kitchee, but Hong Kong champions' boss says 17,000 crowd will leave organisers out of pocket
Chan Kin-wa and Kevin Kung
The chance to watch Paris Saint-Germain star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic play in the flesh was not enough to fill Hong Kong Stadium with soccer fans last night, as organisers complained they would be out of pocket following the French champions’ victory over Kitchee.
Just 17,000 fans paid to watch Ibrahimovic’s side demolish the hosts 6-2 in a preseason friendly, with the Sweden striker scoring a hat trick.
Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said organisers would not break even as the attendance failed to reach 20,000 and gate receipts of HK$6.92 million would not be enough to cover the expected HK$10 million cost of hosting the game.
Hong Kong Stadium has a capacity of 40,000 and ticket prices ranged from HK$330 to HK$780, with concessionary tickets at HK$180.
Ng said it was a pity fewer people showed up, considering the calibre that the Ligue 1 winners of the past two seasons displayed.
He said the gate receipts were lower than when local clubs played friendly matches against English Premier League sides Arsenal and Manchester United in recent years.
Manchester United played Kitchee in front of a near-capacity crowd of 39,102 at the same venue on July 29 last year. Ticket prices ranged from HK$390 to HK$990 for that game, with concessionary tickets at HK$290.
Ibrahimovic topped the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 26 goals last season, and picked up where he left off as he lit up the stadium with a superb performance.
Not only did the 32-year-old score a hat-trick, with two goals in the first half and a header after the break, but his skills and playing style earned a standing ovation from the crowd when he was replaced by teammate Jean-Kevin Augustin with 15 minutes of the game remaining.
“It was a good game for us because it’s like an extra training session,” Ibrahimovic said, as he looked forward to his side’s French Super Cup clash with Guingamp in Beijing on Saturday.
“The most important thing is to keep improving and prepare for the French Super Cup match in Beijing.”
Kitchee midfielder Lam Ka-wai paid tribute to Ibrahimovic, saying he’s a true world-class striker.
“I can tell he hasn’t given his best as he seems to be saving some of his best before their next match in Beijing. It may also be because we could not push him to his limit, but still his performance was exceptional,” said Lam.
The Hong Kong international, who scored a spectacular goal against United last year, failed to repeat his feat last night and offered no excuses.
“Of course, it was a bit disappointing to not score this time, but I am more concerned about our overall performance. We tried to press our opponents from the beginning and went for the attack whenever we had chances, but we found it too difficult to do so against such a strong side.
“They were simply too good for us and they taught us a lesson on how to play a real pressing game instead.
“But, fortunately, we have learned a lot from the match and it will be pivotal as we prepare for the AFC Cup quarter-finals next month.”
Kitchee took advantage of a slow start by their opponents, with striker Juan Belencoso heading home in the fifth minute – but that was the best they could offer. Hervin Ongenda levelled the score in the 12th minute and then goals from Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and two from Ibrahimovic gave the visitors a comfortable 4-1 lead at half-time.
Bahebeck and Ibrahimovic each added to the tally after the break before Alexander Akande scored a consolation goal for Kitchee in the closing stages.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc said the weather conditions were a problem for the team, who have had five weeks of preseason training.
“It was very demanding on the players’ fitness as we had to play in the heat,” he said. “Also, Kitchee are not without quality.
“But I am happy to see the players are getting better and better from our first training in Austria and then to Paris and now in Hong Kong.”