Former Liverpool and Czech Republic players Vladimir Smicer and Patrik Berger will make their HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens debuts for Citi All Stars when the Masters Tournament kicks off on Friday evening.
Smicer scored the second goal as Liverpool came from three down at half-time against AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final to eventually draw 3-3 before prevailing on penalties to cap a stunning comeback for Rafa Benitez’s side.
Berger, along with Smicer, was also part of Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool that claimed a remarkable UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble in 2001.
And the pair, who amassed more than 120 caps between them for their native Czech Republic, will be part of a Citi All Stars team that includes a number of well-known former Premier League players such as former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair and former Fulham winger Luis Boa Morte.
“I saw the pitch yesterday and it’s quite big, so I think it’s going to be very competitive,” said Smicer, whose Citi All Stars team will line up in Group B alongside last year’s runners-up Wallsend Boys Club, HKFC Veterans, Singapore Cricket Club and Yau Yee League Select.
“I’ve played in a few exhibition tournaments and you think it’s going to be easy, but in the end everyone is running hard and everyone wants to win, so it’s going to be tough.
“I came here for the first time with Liverpool in pre-season in 2003 and have since come back two times for travelling and to play golf. It’s a lively place, has lots of good restaurants and it’s nice to be here and see all the tall buildings.”
Both Berger and Smicer were part of the Czech Republic squad that reached the final of Euro 96 in England against Germany.
Berger’s second half penalty had put the Czech Republic in a commanding position before they eventually lost 2-1 after extra-time.
“It’s going to be my first time to play a seven-a-side tournament,” said Berger, who also won the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 1996.
“We have a good bunch of lads in our side so it should be fun and I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s my third time in Hong Kong; it’s a beautiful city and lively 24/7 so it’s great to be back. The four of us [Smicer and fellow Citi All Stars David Thompson and Tony Warner] have all played in exhibitions around the world for Liverpool so it’s really good fun.”
Group A of the Masters Tournament, meanwhile, features reigning champions USRC of Hong Kong and two-time winners Ajax All Stars, who are returning to the competition after a one-year hiatus and have never failed to make the final in the three previous appearances.
USRC won the competition for the first time last year when they defeated Wallsend 2-1 in the final thanks to goals from Brazilian duo Daniel Lins and Paulo Enrique.
Ajax, as always, boast a number of renowned names including Finnish legend Jari Litmanen – who helped the Dutch side win the 1995 UEFA Champions League – as well as former Netherlands international Winston Bogarde and Denmark’s Kenneth Perez, who has scored an incredible 28 goals in three previous appearances at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens between 2012 and 2014.
Completing the Group A line-up will be a trio of local teams in Hong Kong Football Club Chairman’s Select, Kowloon Cricket Club Veterans and Discovery Bay.