Liverpool and Czech Republic legends Vladimir Smicer and Patrik Berger will feature for the Citi All Stars in the Masters Tournament of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in May.
The pair helped their native Czech Republic reach the final of the UEFA European Championship in 1996 before enjoying distinguished careers with the Premier League side.
Substitute Smicer netted the second goal in Liverpool’s remarkable fightback against AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul when Rafa Benitez’s side came from three goals down at half-time to claim a 3-3 draw before eventually prevailing on penalties
And Smicer and fellow midfielder Berger, who are both now 42, then helped Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool win the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup in 2001.
“This will definitely be the strongest Citi team there has been,” said HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens Organising Committee Chairman Tony Bratsanos ahead of the draw on April 12.
“Vladimir and Patrik played for top teams in Europe, obviously Liverpool being the main one, so to get them to come to the Soccer Sevens is great.
“They are well known not just in the UK, but internationally. Smicer manages a club in the lower divisions in Czech Republic and Berger still plays for them, so he’s obviously kept himself very fit.”
And as well as boasting successful club careers, the midfielders also amassed more than 120 international caps for the Czech Republic between them.
At Euro 96 in England, the Czech Republic edged out Italy to qualify for the quarter-finals after coming second in Group C behind Germany as Smicer’s late equaliser against Russia ensured a 3-3 draw and eliminated the Italians, who they had earlier recoded a 2-1win over.
And after beating Portugal in the quarter-finals, Berger scored in the penalty shootout as the Czech Republic edged out France in the semi-finals following a goalless draw.
The attacking midfielder then opened the scoring with another penalty in the final against Germany before the Czech Republic eventually lost 2-1 after Oliver Bierhoff’s golden goal.
Smicer had began his career with Slavia Prague before moving to French Ligue 1 side Lens, where he won the league title in 1998.
But it was at Liverpool where he had the most fruitful period of his playing days when, after signing in 1999, he went on to win the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield in a trophy-laden six years.
The crowning glory in his career was undoubtedly the 2005 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul when, after coming on as a first half substitute, he scored the second of three goals in six second half minutes as Liverpool sparked one of the most memorable moments in the competition’s history by clawing back a seemingly unassailable 3-0 half-time deficit before going on to claim the title on penalties.
The following year, though, Smicer signed for French side Bordeaux, before finishing his career back at Slavia Prague, where he won back-to-back league titles in 2008 and 2009.
Berger also started out at Slavia Prague before signing for Borussia Dortmund in 1995, and although he only stayed one year in Germany prior to signing for Liverpool, the attacking midfielder helped his side win the Bundesliga title.
After performing admirably at Euro 96 in England, Berger made just short of 200 appearances over seven years for Liverpool before spells with Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Stoke City.
Berger then returned to his native Czech Republic to join Sparta Prague before retiring from professional football in 2010.
“It’s much more difficult these days to attract players who have finished their careers because they have been on such big money,” added Bratsanos.
“But we have a very good relationship with the Professional Footballers’ Association, who have to sanction the players to come out for the tournament.”
The Citi All Stars are one of the main attractions of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens Masters Tournament with a number of ex-Premier League players having appeared for the side in recent years.
Former England internationals Des Walker, Rob Lee and Carlton Palmer, ex-Chelsea and Leicester City defender Frank Sinclair, former West Ham United striker Marlon Harewood, and ex-Glasgow Rangers centre-back Lorenzo Amoruso have all featured for the Citi All Stars.
Michael Gray and Matt Jansen, who represented Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers during their playing days, have also starred for Citi All Stars, and they will return to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens again this May.
In the 2015 edition, Citi All Stars reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champions USRC – BTS.
Their best ever performance, meanwhile, came in 2011, when the Citi All Stars finished runners-up to Eastern Salon Top Class after losing 4-3 extra-time defeat.