A Phuket-based charity with a strong Hong Kong connection will face English Premier League opposition on their HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens debut after Thai Youth Football Home were confirmed for this year’s tournament ahead of April’s draw.
A brainchild of former Hong Kong Football Club member Henrik Lorenz, who passed away in 2006, the Youth Football Home now has an estate home for over 60 children in Thailand, some of whom have gone on to play professional football.
English Premier League pacesetters Leicester City, five-time HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens champions Aston Villa, former winners Newcastle United, 2015 runners-up West Ham United and Stoke City have all confirmed they will return to Hong Kong Football Club at the end of May.
“The boys are very excited because they know the tournament and they’re going to be playing some very well-known sides,” said Youth Football Home Trustee Wing Cheung.
“This is the orphanage’s 10th year and the 10th year since Henrik passed away, which is why the Hong Kong Football Club thought it would be a great idea to invite us.”
Youth Football Home was founded and set up by Lorenz and Cheung in order to provide accommodation, education and football training for orphaned and underprivileged children from across Thailand.
Lorenz passed away shortly after the home opened in May 2006, but his family trust has allowed it to flourish over the past decade with a second dormitory housing 32 girls added to the initial dormitory for 32 boys in April 2014.
Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst, both FIFA World Cup winners with England in 1966, are among the charity’s patrons along with German Uwe Bein, who won the FIFA World Cup West Germany in 1990.
“Our coach has been there almost since the beginning. He’s from Finland and has coached some of the top teams in his country so has good credentials,” added Cheung.
“The children come to us at a fairly young age, normally between seven and 10 years old, so some of the earlier kids are now in their late teens or early 20s.
“The team that will play in Hong Kong features a number of the first children who arrived, some of whom have gone onto to play professionally with clubs such as Chonburi, Ranong United and Phuket FC.
“We’re bringing about 11 of the boys. One or two of have not graduated through us, though, as in any age group we have no more than nine or 10 boys. So there will also be some Chonburi players too.”
Lorenz also had a strong Hong Kong connection having been a member of the Hong Kong Football Club for 36 years after arriving in the city in 1970.
“When we started the event on 1999, he was fundamental to the success,” said HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens Organising Committee Chairman Tony Bratsanos.
“He was a hugely successful businessman, but wanted to use his wealth to do good things. He was a humble person and helped create a legacy.
“His side, the Lorenz All Stars, featured a lot of very well-known players over the years including the likes of German stars Jurgen Klinsmann, Pierre Littbarski and Andreas Moller.”
Lorenz’s work in Hong Kong and Thailand led to a strong relationship forging between Hong Kong Football Club and the Youth Football Home, as well as HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens regulars Singapore Cricket Club, who will again be competing this year.
“Every year Hong Kong Football Club and Singapore Cricket Club, which Henrik was also a member of, go to Phuket,” added Bratsanos.
“We give charitable donations to the kids such as equipment they need like football boots, so the guys at HKFC are very close to them.
“The team recently won an 11-a-side tournament in Singapore where they beat an Australian side in the final so they’ll be no walkover. I think seven-a-side will suit them as they’re quick, and they could cause a shock or two.
“They’re also staying in the official tournament hotel, the Excelsior, so it will be a great experience for them to meet some of the Masters players.”
The draw for the Main and Masters Tournaments at the 2016 HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens will take place on 12 April.