Newcastle Jets will be making their first-ever appearance at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens this year, with the club from Australia on a high after an impressive showing on the domestic scene throughout the 2017-18 season.
After struggling in recent years, Newcastle qualified for the A-League Finals behind Premiers Sydney FC, a remarkable turnaround for the club after finishing bottom of the standings the previous season. Much of the credit for that goes to head coach Ernie Merrick, who has close links with Hong Kong as the Scotland-born tactician was previously at the helm of the city’s representative team.
Youth team coach Lawrie McKinna, meanwhile, has a strong track record of working with some of the best young talent in Australia. Newcastle have been home to Socceroos such as Mark Bridge and Jade North as well as Ante Milicic, currently an assistant coach to Dutchman Bert van Marwijk, who will take the country to the finals of the World Cup in Russia in June.
Newcastle’s glory days in the A-League date back to the 2007-08 season when, after a second placed finish in the regular season, the club won the A-League Grand Final, defeating Central Coast Mariners.
Brighton & Hove Albion will reflect on the 2022/23 season as the finest in the club’s history. The Seagulls headed into the final five games of the Premier League season with the prospect of qualifying for Europe for the first time.
When Graham Potter left after six games of the season to become Chelsea’s head coach the club appointed former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk coach Roberto De Zerbi, and after a period of adjustment the team’s fortunes have been on an upward curve.
Wins over the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as a club Premier League record 6-0 victory against Wolves in early May propelled Albion into a European place.
De Zerbi hasn’t just relied on the tried and tested in his squad, with striker Evan Ferguson getting first-team action after progressing through the academy, while teenagers Julio Enciso and Facundo Buonanotte have also been given regular opportunities.
Academy graduate Odel Offiah was handed his Premier League against Nottingham Forest in April, playing in a team that already included fans’ favourites Lewis Dunk and Solly March, who also came through the club’s youth pathway.
Despite the disappointment of losing the FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United on penalties, it is still hard to believe that 26 years ago it needed a draw in the final game of the season to stop the club dropping out of the Football League.
Playing in exile at Gillingham and then in a converted athletics stadium at Withdean were trying times but since Tony Bloom was appointed chairman in 2009 the club has enjoyed a meteoric rise.
Promotion to the Championship in 2011 came in the same year as the club moved into the American Express Community Stadium.
They played in the second tier until 2017 before winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 1983. After consolidating their place in the for three seasons Albion obtained their best points with 51 in the 2021-22 campaign, a total they have already beaten this season with five games to go.
The first German side to compete at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, Bayer Leverkusen have been one of Germany’s best performing teams over the past two decades, having finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga five times between 1997 and 2011.
Having gained a reputation as the nearly men of German football, Leverkusen also finished as runners-up to Real Madrid in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final with a line-up that included Michael Ballack and Brazilian World Cup winner Lucio.
Indeed, the 2001-02 season featured arguably Leverkusen’s strongest team ever, yet ended in disappointed as the side also finished second in both the league and cup.
The side from Germany’s Rhine region have, however, enjoyed previous success, winning the UEFA Cup in 1988 and the German Cup in 1993, while they again reached the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2017.
Among the other notable players who have turned out for the club are former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov, ex-Liverpool defender Sami Hyppia, former Brazilian international Ze Roberto and current Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal.
The current crop of players includes Benjamin Henrichs, Kevin Kampl and Danny da Costa – all of whom have come through the youth ranks – as well as Germany international Lars Bender and Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.
For the second successive year, HKFA U-23 will be the Hong Kong Football Association’s sole representative at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens.
The national age-group side made their debut at the annual seven-a-side competition in 2012 before reaching the Plate semi-final a year later and the Cup quarter-final in 2014.
After the U-20 and U-18 sides represented the governing body in 2015, the U-23 team returned last year and put on a superb display.
Following draws in all three of their group matches – with Leicester City, West Ham United and Singapore Cricket Club – HKFA U-21 went on to defeat Yau Yee League Select 1-0 in the last eight of the Plate and then Kitchee by the same scoreline in the semi-finals.
And despite a 2-0 reversal to Stoke City in the final, the tournament can be considered HKFA U-23’s best yet having played out two wins, three draws and just a solitary defeat in six games at Hong Kong Football Club.
In 2014, the team impressed by beating defending champions Leicester 1-0 on route to qualifying for the Cup quarter-final for the first and, to date, only time, before a 2-1 loss after extra time to fellow Hong Kong side Kitchee.
Other highlights at the tournament include their first ever win – as the Hong Kong Dragons – when they defeated hosts Hong Kong Football Club in the 2013 group stage.
And after last year’s strong showing, HKFA U-23 will return to Happy Valley confident of enhancing their reputation at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens.
Making their debut at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, Thai Youth Home Football are a Phuket-based charity that cares for, educates and provides professional football coaching for orphans and underprivileged children from across Thailand.
The home was founded a decade ago by former Hong Kong Football Club member Henrik Lorenz, who passed away 10 years ago, and accommodates 32 boys and 32 girls.
Strong emphasis is placed on football schooling with a number of former players, such as Germany’s 1990 FIFA World Cup-winner Uwe Bein and former Republic of Ireland international Liam Brady, playing an active role in the children’s development.
Youth Football Home will bring a squad mainly featuring players who have graduated through the orphanage and now represent Thai Premier League side Chonburi as well as regional sides Phuket FC and Ranong.
Founded: 1909 (HKFA)
Home: HKFA, 55 Fat Kwong Street, Homantin, Kowloon, Hong Kong
In preparation for this year’s AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers, HKFA U-18 are making their first appearance in the Soccer Sevens since 2011.
The provisional squad included players from four Premier League clubs – Kitchee and BC Rangers, whose senior sides are also competing in the Soccer Sevens, as well as YFCMD and Sun Pegasus.
In a tough start for the teenagers, they kick off their campaign in Group C against five-time champions Aston Villa, A-League club Wellington Phoenix of New Zealand and Hong Kong Football Club, the hosts’ first team.
In 2011, HKFA U-18 were one of two national age-group teams to participate, along with HKFA U-21.
The U-18s couldn’t have had a much harder introduction to the event, with the teenagers drawn in a tough group with crowd favourites Liverpool, 2009 champions Celtic and Yau Yee League Select.
The young debutants lost of all their group games and then exited in the Plate quarter-finals after losing a penalty shootout against HKFC Captain’s Select, who went on to lift the silverware.
- MANAGEMENT -
- Francisco Javier Bravo Gimenez (Spain) - Head Coach
- Szeto Man-chun (Hong Kong) - Team Manager
- PLAYERS -
- 1. Man Wai-sum (BC Rangers; 18) - Goalkeeper
- 2. Hui Ka-lok (17) -
- 3. Tsui Wang-kit (BC Rangers; 18) - Defender
- 4. Wu Chun-ming (c) (Sun Pegasus; 18) - Midfielder
- 5. Lam Fu-kwai (YFCMD; 18) - Midfielder
- 6. Remi Dujardin (Sun Pegasus; 18) - Midfielder
- 7. Matthew Ho Shing-yuen (Kitchee; 17) - Forward
- 8. Clinton Ng (BC Rangers; 18) - Midfielder
- 9. Chan Pak-hei (Sun Pegasus; 18) - Forward
- 10. Ngan Cheuk-pan (Kitchee; 17) - Midfielder
Group C (4th)
Drew with Wellington Phoenix 0-0
Lost to Aston Villa 1-0
Drew with Hong Kong Football Club 0-0
Plate quarter-finals: Lost to Leicester City 1-0
Group A (4th)
Lost to Liverpool 1-0
Lost to Celtic 2-0
Lost to Yau Yee League Select 2-0
Plate quarter-final: Lost to HKFC Captain’s Select 0-0 (3-4 pens)
Newcastle United return to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens after a four-year absence, with the two-time defending champions aiming to secure an unprecedented third title in Happy Valley. The young Magpies won their first Cup in 2012, when they defeated Aston Villa 2-1 in the final before lifting the trophy for a second time six years later after beating Rangers 1-0 in the final.
Newcastle retained the trophy 12 months later after beating the same opponent in a dramatic final, recovering from two goals down to claim a 4-3 extra-time victory against the Scottish giants. Newcastle United have a pair of FA Youth Cup successes on their honours list and the club has been home to some of the most exciting talent in the English game, with the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle amongst many stars to pull on the famous black-and-white striped shirt whilst the likes of Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson have both progressed from the Magpies’ Academy to first-team level in recent years.