Visiting stars ready to shine at 7s

Urawa Red Diamonds stars warmed up for the defence of their HKFC Philips Lighting Soccer 7s title by joining a skills clinic for students from Po Leung Kuk schools yesterday.

About 100 students took part in the session at Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC). Former English Premier League stars who will be competing in the Soccer 7s Masters tournament (for veteran players) were also present.

The one-hour clinic included fun training drills, skills competitions and seven-a-side matches. The students also received football shirts from Philips Lighting, sponsors of this weekend's tournament.

The annual 7s competition kicks off tonight at HKFC, with the opening games in the Masters event starting at 6pm.

The main Cup action runs all day tomorrow and Sunday, and features 16 teams, including Premier League sides Manchester United and Aston Villa, Scottish clubs Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic and Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.

In their debut appearance at the 7s last year, Urawa, from Japan's J-League, knocked out United and Rangers, before beating PSV in the final. Lorenz All Stars won the Philips Lighting Masters Cup.

Urawa have been drawn in the same group as Hong Kong University League champions, the Institute of Vocational Education. Rangers and Hong Kong First Division club Kitchee make up the group.

There are four groups, with the top two sides from each group advancing to the quarter-finals. Games are seven minutes each half.

This is the third year that the university league champions have been invited for the 7s. City University and the Hong Kong Institute of Education have already taken part in the tournament.

Kitchee will field a young team at the 7s. They have included several up-and-coming players, such as defender Cheung Kin-fung, midfielder Guo Wen and forward Zhang Jor-jun, all of whom are below 21 years. Keith Gumbs and midfielder Tam Siu-wai are among the few experienced players who will line up for the League Cup winners.

Happy Valley and Xiangxue Sun Hei are the other local First Division sides in the main Cup competition.

Hong Kong is also represented by HKFC (two teams) and a Yau Yee League Select team.

Admission to the 7s is free tonight (6-8pm). Weekend tickets cost $200, and includes entry into a lucky draw for an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Cup final in Germany.