Hongkong chase Cup jackpot

THE Hongkong League XI squad will share a $400,000 jackpot if they win the Lunar New Year tournament at Mongkok Stadium tomorrow.

Hongkong, who beat Denmark Under-21s 5-0 in the first semi-final on Saturday, have been promised a bonus of $20,000 a man for victory over Switzerland in the final.

One of Hongkong's four team managers, Kimmy Shuen, said: ''We offered the players $10,000 a man to beat Denmark and are quite happy to double that if they beat Switzerland and win the Cup.

''We think it is important for Hongkong to do well in this tournament and the money will provide them with an extra incentive to be successful.'' With official prize money of $120,000 for the champions, this would mean Hongkong's 17-strong squad sharing a minimum of $400,000 for a third successive Lunar New Year title.

The full bonus is paid to the starting 11, plus substitutes who come on, while the squad members who stay on the bench receive only half the amount. On Saturday, three of the six substitutes got a run, meaning over $200,000 in bonuses and prize money is already guaranteed.

Last season, after victories over Swiss side Young Boys in the semi-final and Yugoslav club Partizan Belgrade in the final, both on penalties, the players received around $28,000 each for their success.

Hongkong have one injury doubt for tomorrow's final - Kitchee midfielder Sean Edwards, who received a kick on his calf during the first half against Denmark Under-21s.

''I got a whack on the calf and went in at half-time and it just knotted up like cramp,'' said Edwards.

''I said I would try it for 10 minutes in the second half but could not get rid of it and eventually had to go off. It was very sore on Sunday morning and hopefully another day's rest will do the trick.

''I'll be training with the squad on Monday morning and see if I can shake it off.'' One of the big successes against Denmark Under-21s was the strikeforce of Eastern's Dale Tempest and South China's Anto Grabo.

Tempest, the captain, scored a hat-trick and Grabo fired in one and laid on two for Tempest.

Grabo, 32, made his debut for the Caroliners on December 6 after joining them from Kuala Lumpur in the Malaysian semi-professional league and had scored two goals for the club leading up to the tournament.

''I am very experienced so it did not need much time to get an understanding with Tempest, who is also a very good player,'' said Grabo, an ethnic Croat from Bosnia whose 14-year career has taken him to the Lommel club in Belgium as well as the Far East.

''Before the game we were a bit afraid of the pitch because of all the water so we used long passes instead of short passes.

''All the players gave 100 per cent and showed a fighting spirit right to the last minute.'' South China have already offered Grabo a deal for next season.

Crisis club Ernest Borel are hoping former goalkeeper Perry Suckling will answer an SOS call - Save Our Season.

Suckling, who joined Borel on loan from Crystal Palace last season and helped them win the Viceroy Cup and Hongkong FA Cup, is now playing for Watford in the English First Division after being released from the final year of his contract with the Premier League side last summer.

Borel wanted to sign him for this season but Suckling recommended a replacement in Tim Dalton, who has failed to command a regular first-team place.

Borel, who play leaders Eastern in the league on Friday, have failed in a bid to sign striker Garry Thompson from English Premier League club Queen's Park Rangers.

QPR have lost the services of Gary Penrice because of a broken leg and manager Gerry Francis was not prepared to release Thompson, older brother of Borel striker Keith Thompson.

Team manager Tsui has also been in touch with former Manchester City midfielder Tony Henry, who trained with the club pre-season, and has also been linked with bustling striker Billy Whitehurst and Mark Falco, who is set to join Kui Tan.