Rangers, Aston Villa, West Ham and Leicester confirmed for Hong Kong Soccer Sevens
Scottish side back after absence of two years while Villa look to win back-to-back trophies
Rangers will return to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens this May after an absence of two years, while defending champions Aston Villa, West Ham United and Leicester City are among English teams sending sides for the popular youth and masters tournament at Hong Kong Football Club in May 26-28.
The Scottish side, and their rivals Celtic, have always been popular at the tournament among local Old Firm fans but have not appeared since 2014. They were back-to-back runners up in 2009 and ’10.
“We are delighted to be returning to Hong Kong for the 2017 HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens tournament,” said Rangers head of academy business and education Creag Robertson said in a statement issued by organisers.
“One of the key objectives at Rangers academy is to provide our players with as many ‘best v best’ challenges as possible to prepare them for playing at Ibrox in front of 50,000 supporters each week, and we have always felt that this tournament will certainly help us achieve this objective.
“Throughout Rangers’ history we have always competed in European competition on a regular basis and events like this are ideal in preparing our young players to play at that level.”
French Ligue 1 club Marseille, German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Italian Serie A outfit Cagliari have also been confirmed.
Aston Villa beat West Ham 2-0 in last year’s Cup final to claim a record sixth title.
“It is a privilege for Aston Villa to be invited to defend our 2016 Hong Kong Sevens title,” said Aston Villa academy manager Sean Kimberley.
“Over the years, the Hong Kong Sevens tournament has proved to be a vital part of the development pathway for players in our academy.
“As proof of that, three members of last season’s victorious squad – Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Keinan Davis – have all featured for the first team this season. We’re all looking forward to taking part in 2017.”
Fellow regulars West Ham have lost consecutive finals in the event.
“We hope that this will be third time lucky for West Ham,” said academy coach Mark Phillips.
Further teams from Hong Kong and Asia will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Although we have broadened the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens to more European leagues this year, we of course are delighted to see some great English clubs represented again, with last year’s champions Aston Villa, West Ham United – the finalists for the past two years – and current English champions Leicester City facing off against the new European opposition,” said tournament director Chris Plowman.
“It will also be great to see Rangers returning to the event after a few years’ absence.”