CLUB or country? It's a talking point across the length and breadth of the football world. In Hong Kong, however, it takes on a very different meaning, not so much referring to the commitments and obligations of individual players but more about the teams invited to compete in the Lunar New Year tournament. Would you like to see club sides with a couple of star attractions taking on the Hong Kong League XI or would you prefer to see national teams, perhaps missing their top players because of club commitments but representative sides all the same? The current sponsors of the four-team tournament, Carlsberg, announced the lineup for next year's event recently and what a splendid job they have done in attracting World Cup hosts the United States, World Cup qualifiers Romania and European champions Denmark to Mongkok Stadium. Although the two European nations are unlikely to include their star players such as Gheorghe Hagi and Florin Raducioiu (Romania) and Peter Schmeichel and Michael and Brian Laudrup (Denmark) because of club commitments, they still provide top quality viewing for football fans. And the United States will be using the tournament to improve their football education in the build-up to the World Cup finals, which they will host from June 17 to July 17. Personally, I would prefer to see official teams from national football associations rather than club sides battling it out over the Lunar New Year, although there is room in the Hong Kong calendar for club sides to make one-off appearances in exhibition matches. Although the national squads may be missing their star names, the players selected are here to represent their country and take the games seriously. An outstanding performance will not go unnoticed - and neither will an indiscretion on or off the field. Just over a year ago, Norway visited Hong Kong for a friendly on their way to China and gave the public an insight into the changing face of European football. Since then, of course, Norway have qualified for the World Cup, taking three points off both England and the Dutch in their group. This year's Lunar New Year tournament was won by Switzerland under English coach Roy Hodgson - and again the Swiss have qualified for the United States, keeping out Portugal and Scotland from their group. Although club sides may have a sprinkling of ''name'' players, they tend to treat overseas invitations as holidays - which is exactly what they are. Although they will go through the motions, the passion is not there because they are here for a break, to escape the pressures and intensity of their own season. Switching sports for a minute, this is why I think the Hong Kong Rugby Union have taken a step backwards in inviting a President's Seven to next year's Sevens. If England and Wales can't be bothered to send an official team, then leave them out of it. Keep the Sevens line-up for national teams only - and the players who miss out may then put pressure on their home unions to send a representative side the following year. As for next year's Lunar New Year soccer tournament, which will be held on February 10 and 13, the United States will provide fascinating viewing. And it will be interesting to see how many American expatriates turn up to cheer on their boys. For many of them it will be their first ''live'' soccer - sorry, ''sack-ur'' - and it may just give them a taste of things to come next summer. So book your seats in the bleachers, pack those chilli dogs and don't wait for the seventh-inning stretch because you'll be disappointed. TST rich in talent for Papu's new army YOU'VE heard of ''Ma's Army'' of Chinese women distance runners - but what about ''Papu's Army'' of cricketers from the sub-continent? The likes of Jawaid Iqbal, Sada Hussain, Sagir Mohammed and Wasim Imtiaz have been turning the tables on the establishment of Hong Kong cricket this season with a series of match-winning displays for Papu's Merchants Cricket Club in the Saturday League. After 12 rounds of fixtures, Merchants stand third in the 18-team table, behind only perennial championship chasers Nomads and Tartars. But while new recruits to Ma's Army are selected through painstaking procedures, Kowloon jeweller and cricket nut Papu has a much more simple method - he just wanders around Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. ''I think there's a few more of them out there,'' said Papu, watching proudly from the Kowloon Cricket Club balcony as Sagir captured three wickets for Hong Kong against Bangladesh on Friday. ''I needed some new faces in the Merchants side so I went for a walk round the back of Chungking Mansions and found these boys. ''So I asked them to play for me.'' Watch out - ''Papu's Army'' is on the march. Trophy frenzy before break HONG KONG sports officials just love their inauguration ceremonies. Last Monday it was the turn of the Hong Kong Billiards and Snooker Control Council, who made a grand entrance on to the territory's sporting stage under the watchful eye of Olympic chief A.de O. Sales. After a short speech from the guest of honour, during which he revealed he hadn't played snooker or billiards since the Japanese nicked his three cues during the invasion in 1941, the inauguration began. Mr Sales was positioned in the middle of no fewer than 13 officials, all of whom will do their bit to look after the interests of the territory's 300,000 (their figure) players. The Council has four presidents, one chairman, two vice-chairmen, one secretary and two treasurers. And that's just for starters. The chairman, two vice-chairmen, secretary and two treasurers are then joined on an 11-strong executive committee by a welfare officer, an operations officer and three members. When the red velvet curtains were pulled back to reveal the official logo of the Council, the champagne corks popped and everyone received a trophy from everyone else. Amazing, isn't it? All those trophies being presented before one red ball has been potted in anger.