24 April 2013

Hong Kong 7's 2013

by Scott Semple | President of the Hong Kong RSC

"We're a family, and when a member of your family needs some help, what you do is help them. Rangers are part of our family."

What you have just read is not some piece of far-fetched fiction from some Scottish footballing fairy­tale, but an actual quote from the chief organiser of one of the world’s premier international youth football tournaments; The International Hong Kong Soccer 7’s.

Tony Bratsanos, the tournament director of the 7s, and a huge Liverpool fan, was the man that has extended a helping hand to the Rangers family. It genuinely helps when you are dealing with real football people that care about relationships and the greater good of sport and not those tarred with the twisted bitterness we are so used to (and tiring from) within the Scottish game.

So unlike the English FA when they stepped in and helped Portsmouth in any way they could during their hour of need, in our case you need to travel to almost the other side of the world to Hong Kong for the Soccer 7s organisers to show you how you look out for your "family". And that's exactly what Rangers are considered out here, as our participation in the Soccer 7's stretches back to 2005 when John 'Bomber' Brown and Malky Thompson led a Rangers youth team to Hong Kong for the very first time. That particular side included Allan McGregor and Charlie Adam.

The tournament started back in 1999 and it's currently in planning for it's 14th edition (it was cancelled in 2003 due to SARS) and is hosted each May at the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC). It should be noted that the Hong Kong Rugby 7's started at the HKFC some 30­-odd years ago before it outgrew that venue and turned into the behemoth it is today with 40,000 fans descending on Hong Kong annually for one of the biggest parties in the world! (I'm not even a rugby fan, but I would never miss that event!). So the Soccer 7's have big ambitions as they peer out from the shadow of the their egg­-shaped ball counterparts.

With this in mind you wouldn't expect a Third Division team from Scotland to be invited to a tournament that has been growing year on year and has huge aspirations to increase awareness even further would you? But as you all know we're talking about the Rangers here and we're not just any football club. Many describe us as "more than a club" and having witnessed from afar the way our fans have rallied around the club, I think this is indeed the case. It's a way of life and even far afield in Asia people understand the passion our great support has for our club, hence a friendly invitation has made it's way to Govan once more. We are still big news all around the world and no one should ever forget that.

Personally, and quite selfishly, I'm delighted that the Rangers have been invited once more to Hong Kong as our supporters club are hosting the annual Oceania Rangers Supporters Association (ORSA) Convention & AGM for the first time and we had purposely chosen to coincide with the week of the HK Soccer 7's (24th - 26th May) and turn the week into a festival of Rangers football. 

Many bluenoses will of course be far more familiar with NARSA and the annual convention they host each year, with this year's event hosted in San Francisco the following weekend from our event (31st May - 2nd June). For us within the ORSA Rangers family what we hope to achieve is to raise the profile of our organisation and event and ultimately spread the Rangers gospel to a greater audience.

Getting back to the Soccer 7's. Since their first appearance in 2005, Rangers have been ever-presents in the tournament and for the Bears in Hong Kong we have been spoiled with youth players that have gone onto develop their careers either at Ibrox or further afield. Andy Little, Ross Perry, Scott Gallacher, Steven Smith, Chris Burke, Bob Malcolm, Andy Shinnie, Rhys McCabe and Ross McCormack to mention just a few.

And if you count the youth players that have played here representing other teams, then the list is even more impressive as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson, Anton Ferdinand, David Bentley and Marc Albrighton have all graced this tournament.
A young Steven Davis even played here twice for Aston Villa prior to joining Fulham and eventually captaining Rangers, so it's worth keeping a keen eye on the other teams too!

Just last season the Rangers youth team included players that have gone onto represent the first team this year with aplomb such as Barrie McKay, Fraser Aird and Robbie Crawford. I have no doubt that yet again we will have the privilege of watching some stars of the future in this tournament and hopefully this year the boys can finally get their hands in the trophy having twice been beaten finalists. Other teams taking part in the main tournament include Manchester City, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland and Leicester City.

The Soccer 7's doesn't just focus on youth though as they also have a Masters tournament that runs alongside the main tournament and yet again the list of players that have played here reads like a who's who of the footballing world. Jurgen Klinsman, Andreas Moller, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Alan Kennedy, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Michael Thomas have all strutted their stuff on the HKFC pitch over the years.

Not to mention the Rangers Legends teams we have had play here on two separate occasions, firstly in 2008 when they went on to win the event at a canter with a squad of Andy Goram, Scott Nisbet, John Brown, Dave McPherson, Derek Ferguson, Ian Ferguson, Alex Rae, Gordon Durie, Gary McSwegan and Mark Walters. Then last season, when they played under the banner of the "Citibank All Stars" with a largely similar squad but included debut appearances for Marvin Andrews, Lorenzo Amoruso and Charlie Miller.

Last year's tournament saw the lads get knocked out at the quarter-final stage to the Teddy Sheringham led "Discovery Bay". The Ajax All-Stars eventually won the Masters tournament last year with a very impressive side, so I think they will be the team to beat and if one team can do it, we hope it is the Rangers Legends 2013 class that are coming out for the tournament. The squad will comprise of the following players: Andy Goram, Scott Nisbet, Arthur Numan, Marvin Andrews, Alex Rae, Derek Ferguson, Jorg Albertz, Charlie Miller, Michael Mols & Mark Walters.

If all of the above tickles your fancy and you have a so far unused budget for following Rangers overseas this year, then feel free to drop us a line at our supporters club and/or checkout our website for all the latest details of the events we are hosting that week.

What you can be sure of is a very enjoyable few days in one of the world's most exciting and dynamic cities and all in the company of fellow bears and a host of other football fans from clubs around the world that will treat you in no other way than as part of the greater football community and family. How refreshing does that sound?

Oh yeah, Celtic have not been invited this year......

We Are The People.