Past winners of the Soccer Sevens include Aston Villa. (PHOTO BY E LI)
Hong Kong is set to host the 2018 edition of the Soccer Sevens from May 18th to 20th and football fans will again have the chance to enjoy a whole host of teams from around the world. The tournament sees teams initially play in group games and then progresses into the knock-out round of two competitions, the main tournament and the masters tournament.
The Hong Kong Soccer Sevens have grown since its debut in 1999 and developed into one of the premier seven aside football tournaments in the world. From its humble beginnings, it has established its name as a platform for talented young players to gain experience and shine. Jack Grealish, for example, lit up the Soccer Sevens in 2013 and now he is a major star for Aston Villa’s first team which is on the verge of the English Premier League again.
Heading to Hong Kong for this year’s main tournament are Aston Villa, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Brighton Hove and Albion and last year’s champions Leicester City. These well-known English teams will be joined by Hong Kong champions Kitchee, the HKFA Red Dragons, J-League’s Kashima Antlers, various HKFC teams, Newcastle Jets from the Australian A-League, Wellington Phoenix from New Zealand, Cagliari from Serie A and some local amateur teams. The diverse mixture of global sides means fans will be able to view and compare a wide array of playing styles.
The masters tournament for players over 35 will see a whole host of star names take for the field that include former England goalkeeper David James, former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey, former Aston Villa star Lee Hendrie, and former Manchester United defender Wes Brown.
Christopher Chung who will play for the Hong Kong U20 representative team, the HKFA Red Dragons, shared his opinion on the lasting appeal of the sevens tournament and his excitement at representing Hong Kong.
“For me personally, it's always an honour and a privilege to represent Hong Kong in tournaments such as the Sevens. It's also an incredible experience to play against top flight English Premier league teams such as Leicester City and Brighton Hove Albion.”
The HKFA Dragons want to compete on the highest level. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCCER SEVENS)
Chung stressed that the seven-aside game encourages attacking football, which in turn can make for a great viewing spectacle as having less players on the pitch can allow for quicker tempo, because players are aware that the games are short and that time is limited.
“Growing up, I would always attend the Sevens as a supporter. So the tournament holds a special place in my heart. I think the format of the Sevens encourages entertaining and fast-paced games, and promotes the beautiful game in Hong Kong.”
One of the underlying themes of the Soccer Sevens is that the tournament is now seen as a chance for young players to gain experience and Chung mentioned how the tournament allows young and upcoming players, such as himself and the HKFA Red Dragons, the chance to prepare and learn for future games.
“The Sevens is a good chance for teams to showcase their youth talent. I think it will be a good opportunity for us to prove we have what it takes to compete at the highest level. The Sevens will also serve as good preparations for other upcoming tournaments such as the Asian Games and the Olympic qualifiers.”
Chung went on to share his views on the benefits of inviting such well known teams from abroad to play in the Soccer Sevens.
“Having teams invited from places such as England provides us with a fantastic opportunity to play against elite teams outside Asia. I think the overseas teams provide a good contrast in playing style with the local teams and the more physical overseas style of football will be a good challenge for us.”
The Soccer Sevens will be played at the Hong Kong Football Club in Causeway Bay from May 18th to 20th 2018.