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Hong Kong Soccer Sevens 2017

Young guns launch Hong Kong Soccer Sevens as old hand Colin Hendry talks about extending careers

The starting gun was fired on the 2017 HKFC Soccer Sevens and it’s a step into the unknown for a Premier League title winner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 10:27pm

As has become the tradition, the firing of Hong Kong’s storied Noonday Gun marked the start of this year’s HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens on Thursday.

Players from seven of the clubs represented in the main tournament were in attendance as Harry McKirdy, captain of defending champions Aston Villa, was awarded the honour of firing the starting gun on the weekend’s festivities.

“We’ve come back to retain the title,” said McKirdy, who will be appearing at the competition for the fourth successive year and was the tournament’s top scorer last year.

“It’s a good tournament at the end of a season and it’s good to get out here with the lads, play some football and experience another country.”

English Championship side Villa are joined by a host of top European clubs in a main tournament which features Italian outfit Cagliari, France’s Marseille and German side Bayer Leverkusen for the first time.

“It’s a big city and very different to Germany,” said Bayer Leverkusen captain Joel Abu Hanna. “The people are different, the weather is different but we like it here.

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“I think we are the youngest team here so we can learn a lot from how the other teams play. In Germany the climate is different so training was hard, but I think in one or two days we’ll get used to it.”

One player the youngster would be well advised to learn from is Premier League title winning defender Colin Hendry, who has returned to Hong Kong for the first time in almost thirty years.

“I’ve never played the sevens [format] before,” said the former Scotland international. “I’ve played fives in Dubai in a similar situation. Sevens is a bit different. I’ve seen the size of the pitch and that will probably be a big issue for us. To cover that distance will be tough for lads of our age.

“Some of us played last year so we’ve got an idea on how to handle it this year. If we score the first goal, hopefully we should be okay.”

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Hendry will represent Playon Pros, a team of former internationals who are making their debut in the masters section of the tournament.

Playon Football is a project founded by a group of former players including former Nottingham Forest and England player Viv Anderson and Everton and England star Trevor Steven among others.

It aims to give former professionals the chance to extend their career in the game through participating all over the world in age group competitions like the HKFC Soccer Sevens.

“It’s a great idea and it’s been very ably supported,” said Hendry. “We’re looking to expand and help players after football. It’s the club after the club you played for professionally.

“We’ve got a variety of different lads in our team who’ve been at different levels at different stages in football. It’s gonna take a bit of time to kick on but I think its needed, especially for ex-players. You only need to look at some of the examples of ex-players at the moment who’ve struggled after football.”

The Sevens gets underway on Friday at 6pm when the masters section of the tournament kicks off.

Hendry’s Playon Pros are in action at 6.36pm against local outfit Yau Yee League Masters.