Main Tournament ready for kick-off

Leceister City vs BC Rangers during day two of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens 2015 on May 30, 2015 at the Hong Kong Football Club in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Xaume Olleros / Power Sport Images

Leicester City vs BC Rangers during day two of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens 2015 on May 30, 2015 at the Hong Kong Football Club in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Xaume Olleros / Power Sport Images

Leicester City will arrive at the 17th HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens after an incredible Premier League campaign, but will face strong competition from their countrymen in the shape of Aston Villa, West Ham United, Newcastle United and Stoke City, as well as a host of other international entrants including Japan’s Kashima Antlers, FC Seoul of South Korea and New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix.

Aston Villa are the most decorated side in HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens history having won the tournament a record five times between 2002 and 2010.

Leicester and Newcastle have also each claimed the title on one occasion in 2012 and 2013, while West Ham were unlucky to lose a thrilling final 3-2 after extra-time to Spain’s Atletico Madrid in the 2015 competition.


Group A – Newcastle United (England), Aston Villa (England), Kitchee (Hong Kong), Hong Kong Football Club (Hong Kong)

Group B – Wellington Phoenix (New Zealand), Stoke City (England), Eastern (Hong Kong), Yau Yee League Select (Hong Kong)

Group C– Kashima Antlers (Japan), FC Seoul (Korea Republic), Thai Youth Football Home (Thailand), HKFC Chairman’s Select (Hong Kong)

Group D –West Ham United (England), Leicester City (England), HKFA U21 (Hong Kong), Singapore Cricket Club (Singapore)


Japan’s Kashima are making their highly-anticipated comeback after last appearing in 2004, while debutants FC Seoul are South Korea’s first-ever representatives.

And Wellington and Stoke, who both debuted last year, are back for a second successive tournament.

Wellington, who compete in Australia’s A-League, put on a fine showing in 2015 by reaching the Cup semi-final before losing 1-0 to eventual champions Atletico, who again needed extra-time to progress.

Stoke, meanwhile, will look to improve on their return to the tournament after failing to advance from the group stage last year.

Thai Youth Football Home, founded by former Hong Kong Football Club member Henrik Lorenz, will make a heart-warming appearance as they mark their 10-year anniversary as well as a decade since the German passing.

And strong local contingent will also participate this year, with hosts Hong Kong Football Club being joined by two Hong Kong Premier Division sides in 2011 champions Kitchee and Hong Kong Premier League champions Eastern.

HKFA U-21, HKFC Captain’s Select, and Yau Yee League Select as well as tournament regulars Singapore Cricket Club return once again to complete the line-up.

Premier League teams seek to re-establish dominance

The roll of honour at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens is dominated by clubs from the English Premier League, who have won 10 of the previous 16 editions.

Atletico’s debut success in 2015 brought to an end a hat-trick of English triumphs between 2012 and 2014, when Newcastle, Leicester and Manchester City all claimed the much-coveted Cup, while five of the six finalists in those years were also Premier League clubs.

Aston Villa have built up a strong relationship with Hong Kong Football Club over the years and have a magnificent record at the tournament, but despite lifting the Cup a record five times, their last success came back in 2010.

Aston Villa have a reputation of bringing some of their stars of the future, with many of those appearing at Hong Kong Football Club going on to feature for their first team in the ensuing years.

Current England international and Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill, Leicester City winger Marc Albrighton, long-standing Villa frontman Gabby Agbonlahor and Republic of Ireland defender Ciaran Clark are among those who have turned out for Aston Villa over the years.

More recently, Jack Grealish was Top Scorer in the 2013 and 2014 editions as Aston Villa claimed the Shield on both occasions.

And after the side were relegated from England’s top flight for the first time since 1987, the group of youngsters participating at this year’s HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens are likely to have a huge part to play in helping re-establish this proud club as a force to be reckoned with among the Premier League’s elite in the years to come.

Newcastle, who will face the five-time champions in Group A – alongside Kitchee and Hong Kong Football Club – boast a strong recent record after winning the Cup on their debut in 2012 with a 2-1 final victory over Aston Villa, and have never failed to reach at least the Cup semi-finals in their three appearances since.

After posting spectacular domestic campaigns, Leicester and West Ham will face off in a mouthwatering Group D as the Foxes look to add to their Cup victory in 2013 and the Hammers aim to go one better than last year’s final defeat.

HKFA U-21 and Singapore Cricket Club will have to derail the Premier League success stories if they are to progress in the Cup competition.

England’s final entrant, Stoke, will need to overcome last year’s semi-finalists Wellington, Eastern and Yau Yee League Select if they are to advance from Group B and make the Cup quarter-finals.

Asian Influence

Kashima and FC Seoul will be joined by Thai Youth Football Home and HKFC Captain’s Select in an intriguing, all-Asian Group C.

Kashima last participated at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens 12 years ago and will become the first Japanese side to appear at the competition since 2008.

The J.League, though, boasts a strong tournament pedigree in the years it has been represented, with Urawa Red Diamonds winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, and remaining the only side apart from Aston Villa to have won the Cup more than once.

Another star attraction will be debutants FC Seoul, who are enjoying a fine season both domestically and in the AFC Champions League, where they will take part in the Round of 16 in September.

A number of notable players, including South Korean internationals Ki Sung-yueng, Lee Chung-yong and Park Chu-young, have begun their professional careers with FC Seoul over the years, and the side from the Korean capital will be expected to feature a line-up of players hoping to also make a name for themselves in the future.

Among the most talked about participants at this year’s event will be Thai Youth Football Home, a Phuket-based orphanage that offers education and football training to underprivileged children. The charity resonates strongly at Hong Kong Football Club due to the links with its founder, Lorenz, who was integral to the success of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in its early years.

The highly-respected German helped attract numerous star names to the competition to enhance its global appeal, which it continues to hold today.

And perhaps fittingly, Hong Kong Football Club will have a representative in Group C alongside Youth Football Home, with HKFC Captain’s Select completing the four-team table.