Big crowd expected for season curtain raiser between South China and Kitchee
League champions and Play-off Cup winners clash at Mong Kok Stadium, looking for a bright start to the new Hong Kong season
A bumper crowd is expected to watch the season begin with a bang on Sunday as heavyweights Kitchee and South China clash in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Cup at Mong Kok Stadium.
The new charity event, which features the league champions against the winners of the previous season’s Play-off Cup, has been introduced as the curtain raiser to the regular season.
League champions Kitchee, who have already made it to the regional AFC Cup semi-finals, will be under scrutiny as they face the challenge of South China, traditional powerhouses of Hong Kong soccer.
A healthy 4,900 crowd turned out on Tuesday night to watch Kitchee face Vissai Ninh Binh of Vietnam in the AFC Cup quarter-finals at the same venue and officials are hoping for a better attendance today.
“This is a new event with the financial backing of the Jockey Club and we have the two best teams against each other,” said Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak. “It should be strong enough to attract the fans, especially with the recent fine weather. After a long summer break, the fans are always eager to watch their teams again.”
Kitchee lost 1-0 to the Vietnamese side but should be able to field a stronger side today. Hong Kong international Huang Yang, who was suspended for the AFC Cup, will return to midfield, while fellow midfielder Matthew Lam and forwards Christian Annan and Alexander Akande, who were all ineligible for the regional cup competition, can also start.
However, South China will not be able send former Bulgaria international Dimitar Markriev as the 1.91 metre centre half, who was once with Inter Milan for three seasons (2002-2005) but did not make any appearance, has yet to clear his transfer papers while Australian winger Evan Kostopoulos is injured.