April 8, 2015: Wellington Phoenix of New Zealand and fast-rising Chinese club Shanghai SIPG will make their tournament debuts at this year’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 29-31.
Hong Kong champions Kitchee will also represent a strong Asia-Pacific presence looking to challenge English domination of the annual seven-a-side tournament, which will mark its 16th edition next month.
Wellington, currently fourth in Australia’s A-League, will be the first club from New Zealand to participate and will field a mixture of first-team and youth players under the charge of Chris Greenacre, the club’s Assistant Coach.
“The popularity of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens has grown dramatically throughout the world in the last couple of years,” said Greenacre, who played three seasons for Wellington at the end of a playing career that included spells at Manchester City and Stoke City.
“A close friend of mine helped coach Sunderland at the Soccer Sevens and said what a fantastic tournament it is. He said there are real quality young players on show and that the crowd really get behind the teams and create an electric atmosphere, a buzz.
“Our players are delighted to have been invited and the general interest from the whole squad, including the senior players, has been tremendous. It’s not only a great career opportunity but also a life opportunity to visit a vibrant place like Hong Kong.”
Shanghai SIPG, formerly known as Shanghai East Asia, are the latest Chinese Super League side to compete in the Soccer Sevens, following Guangzhou Evergrande’s debut last year.
Under new coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, Shanghai SIPG are second in this year’s Chinese Super League with three wins and a draw. Lu Jianjun will coach the side in Hong Kong.
Kitchee won the Soccer Sevens in 2011 and last year beat Chelsea and Newcastle United on their way to reaching the final. The team are now hoping to become the first Hong Kong club to win the Soccer Sevens twice.
Jose Molina, Head Coach of Kitchee, said: “Kitchee always look forward to playing in the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens and we did very well last year, beating Newcastle in the semi-finals and even leading Manchester City in the final, so we’re determined to win it again.
“We’re always proud to represent Hong Kong in this tournament, which features so many famous clubs from around the world. The games are fast and exciting with a lot of goals, so it’s always a popular tournament with our players.”
Tony Bratsanos, Chairman of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens Organising Committee, said the addition of leading teams from New Zealand and China gave the tournament a more global feel.
“Wellington Phoenix are the first club from New Zealand to compete here and are doing really well in the A-League, while we’re also excited about Shanghai SIPG, who have quickly become one of the China’s biggest clubs,” Bratsanos said.
“With Kitchee again competing, we have leading teams from the A-League, Chinese Super League and Hong Kong Premier League, so this is great news for fans.”
The HKFA U-23 and U-21 teams, both quarter-finalists last year, will also represent Hong Kong in this year’s competition.
Spanish champions Atletico Madrid will make their tournament debut, while five-time champions Aston Villa, recent winners Newcastle United (2012) and Leicester City (2013), West Ham United and newcomers Stoke City will represent the English Premier League charge.
Yau Yee League Select, Singapore Cricket Club and two teams from hosts Hong Kong Football Club will also feature in the 16-team Main competition, along with a Hong Kong Premier League team to be confirmed.
Sides competing in the over-35 Masters tournament will be announced on Friday.