Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Fernando Torres is our money-maker: Lunar New Year Cup organisers bank on Spanish star

  • Torres’ J-League club Sagan Tosu, Auckland City, Shandong Luneng and a Hong Kong League XI form line-up for holiday tournament
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 5:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 5:12pm

Lunar New Year Cup organisers are confident of avoiding red numbers this year with a playing format of three overseas teams and the presence of former Spanish international Fernando Torres.

Once the biggest event on the Hong Kong sporting calendar, the tournament has cost the Hong Kong Football Association and individual clubs millions in recent years, with fans losing interest because of a lack of star power.

Last year, the tournament was reduced to a one-day affair between two local sides – a second string Hong Kong representative team and a League XI with a turnout of just 4,200 fans at Mong Kok Stadium.

But a source has confirmed there will be three overseas teams this year, including J-League club Sagan Tosu, featuring Torres, Auckland City of New Zealand and Shandong Luneng, who finished third in the Chinese Super League last season. The hosts will be represented by a League XI, with Pegasus players forming the backbone.

“Torres is a marquee player and we have requested his presence in Hong Kong as he can definitely help gate receipts,” said the source who works closely with the organisers.

“There will be four teams this year and we will play the tournament at Hong Kong Stadium with two match days, the first and third days of the Lunar New Year. Both are public holidays and hopefully that can also help the attendance.

Fernando Torres to Hong Kong: Spain striker’s J. League side Sagan Tosu set to feature in Lunar New Year Cup

“It’s always our biggest wish to make the Lunar New Year Cup popular again as this is the time to celebrate for Chinese. A big event to kick off the year is always welcome.”

The teams will play in a knockout match on February 5 with the two winners advancing to the final two days later, while the losers will play-off for third place.

The source said commercial sponsors have been confirmed and more details will be disclosed next week.

It will be Torres’ third appearance in Hong Kong, although his professional career is nearing an end.

Torres first came to Hong Kong with Liverpool in 2007 for the EPL Asia Trophy. After moving to Chelsea in a £50 million transfer in early 2011, he also came to Hong Kong for the same tournament that summer.