April 10, 2015: England-based teams Citibank All Stars, Wallsend Boys Club and Nottingham Forest Mobsters, and Hong Kong side USRC (United Services Recreational Club) are the top four seeds in the 10-team Masters Tournament at next month’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens.
Kitchee All Stars from Hong Kong will make their tournament debut in the Masters, for over-35 players, which will be held alongside the 16-team Main Tournament at Hong Kong Football Club from May 29-31.
HKFC Veterans and HKFC Chairman’s Select will again represent host venue Hong Kong Football Club in the Masters, while regular participants Kowloon Cricket Club and Singapore Cricket Club also return, with a further team to be confirmed.
This year’s Masters Tournament has a new format, starting with two round-robin groups followed by Cup semi-finals and the final. The event’s Official Draw will be held on Tuesday, with the top four seeds split across the two groups.
The historic Wallsend Boys Club in Newcastle reached the quarter-finals on their debut last year with a side featuring England legend Peter Beardsley, forward Michael Bridges, a UEFA Cup semi-finalist with Leeds, and Alan Thompson, the former Aston Villa and Celtic midfielder.
Tony Sealy played a key role in bringing Wallsend Boys Club to Hong Kong, having played at the club as a teenager before becoming one of over 60 ‘graduates’ to go on and become a pro footballer, along with the likes of Beardsley, Steve Bruce, Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick.
Sealy will again be part of the team management in Hong Kong and the former striker – who played for Crystal Palace, Queen’s Park Rangers, Fulham and Leicester City – could potentially pull on the boots for what will be another momentous occasion for the club.
“It was very special last year when we were able to bring out Wallsend Boys Club for the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens for the first time and we had tremendous support from the likes of Peter Beardsley, Michael Bridges and Alan Thompson,” said Sealy, the Director of Operations at Hong Kong Football Club.
“This year is even more special as it’s Wallsend Boys Club’s 50th anniversary and we’re looking to grow the profile of the club and raise funds to build a new clubhouse, after the last one was destroyed in 2012. I might play a bit this year as I was injured last year, but most importantly we’re trying to organise a strong side to hopefully challenge for the Cup.”
Citibank All Stars will bid to win the trophy that has eluded them for the past six years. In their first four appearances from 2009, the star-studded squad organised by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) suffered painful defeats in the knockout stage in extra-time or on penalties, including an extra-time loss in the 2011 final.
USRC are again expected to be among the main contenders, having reached last year’s final with a squad bolstered by five Brazilian pros, including Capone, a UEFA Cup winner with Galatasaray in 2000, former Hong Kong captain Cristiano Cordeiro and Fabio Alcantara, the tournament’s joint-top scorer last year.
Nottingham Forest Mobsters will be bidding to reach the final for the first time, having reached the semi-finals last year by beating Citibank All Stars 2-1 in the quarters with a team featuring former England centre-back Des Walker.
Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, Wellington Phoenix of New Zealand, Shanghai SIPG of China and Stoke City of England will make their debuts in the open-aged Main Tournament.
Five-time champions Aston Villa, recent winners Newcastle United (2012) and Leicester City (2013), and West Ham United will join Stoke in a five-pronged Premier League attack. Hong Kong champions Kitchee, the 2011 winners and last year’s runners-up, will lead the local charge.