Will Diego Forlan signing pay for itself? Kitchee expect 20,000 fans at first AFC Champions League game despite ticket price rise
Hong Kong Premier League champions move first two continental matches from Mong Kok to larger capacity Hong Kong Stadium
How much Diego Forlan is earning at Kitchee remains a mystery, but fans are going to have to shell out more to catch a glimpse of the former World Cup star in the AFC Champions League.
The Hong Kong Premier League champions announced increased ticket prices for the top regional cup competition as they unveiled the Uruguayan striker at a press conference on Friday.
Tickets for last year’s qualification round cost HK$160, but members of the Kitchee supporters club will pay HK$180 – with HK$60 concessionary tickets for the elderly and students – for the first two home games at Hong Kong Stadium, before moving to Mong Kok Stadium for the third match because of a clash of dates with the Rugby Sevens which uses the So Kon Po facility.
For non-members, tickets will be priced in two categories at HK$300 and HK$200 for the games, with concessions at HK$100.
“We are expecting a strong crowd of over 20,000 fans for the opening home match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea,” said Kitchee general manager Wilson Ng Hoi-wai.
“The ticket price is not unreasonable because it is a top class competition involving many quality players from both sides including Forlan.
“Also, it will take place during the festival period and should be able to attract the fans because of the atmosphere, just like the previous Lunar New Year Cup.”
Eastern sold their home tickets at HK$180 for last year’s AFC Champions League, while South China charged fans just $60 in 2009 when they hosted Kuwait Sport Club in the AFC Cup semi-finals.
Ng did not confirm if the extra income from tickets would be used to cover the cost of employing the 38-year-old former Manchester United striker Forlan, who is contracted until the end of the Hong Kong Premier League season in May.
Kitchee have also increased ticket prices for domestic matches from HK$120 to HK$150, with Forlan in contention to make his Hong Kong debut against Southern in the Premier League on Sunday.
“Our target is to attract more fans to the game, and a player of Forlan’s calibre will certainly work wonders as we have already received many inquiries since we announced his arrival,” said Ng.
“We always try to explore ways to make more income on the commercial side but our primary concern is still the quality of our soccer.
“Fans should be more than happy to watch Forlan play in Hong Kong.”
Kitchee take on Jeonbuk in the Champions League on February 20 though their other two group E opponents are still to be decided by this month’s qualifiers.
Forlan will be one of Kitchee’s four foreign players for the regional cup tie, along with his former Mumbai teammate, Krisztian Vadocz – whom he played with in India in 2016 – as well as 2017 Hong Kong Footballer of the Year Fernando Pedreira and one last Asian player to be decided next week.