Kitchee and Young Talents Ready for Debut in Brand

After going almost three weeks without playing a single domestic game, Kitchee will resume its duty on Wednesday by taking on old nemesis Eastern in the Henderson Sapling Cup. The Group A fixture will take place in Mongkok Stadium and kick-off time for the heavy-weight clash will be at 2:30pm. In order to generate additional playing time for promising youngsters, the inaugural Henderson Sapling Cup has a unique set of rules that restricts each participating team to play a minimum of two Under-22 players (born on or after 1 January, 1994) and a maximum of six foreign players during every whole match of the tournament, or to play a maximum of four foreign players during every whole match of the tournament. In terms of tournament format, the competition will be split into two stages – the first will be the group stage and the second will be the knock-out Stage. Kitchee, who finds itself in Group A, will try to fend off challenges from Yuen Long, BC Rangers, Eastern and Kwoon Chung Southern for one of the two coveted spots in the semi-finals. Kitchee head coach Abraham Garcia fully understands the concept of the Sapling Cup and wants to make good use of the tournament. “I understand why the HKFA organized such a tournament and I think it will be good for the future of Hong Kong football,” the Spaniard stated. “Kitchee always plays to win but we also want to develop our own young players. It is important for us to see them play at a challenging level and this tournament will be a good place to do so. From my perspective, if you do not give the young players a chance, you will never know how good they can be.” Midfielder Cheung Kwok-ming hopes a good showing in the Sapling Cup can help him stake claim for a first team starting position. “The tournament is designed to offer youngsters more playing time and I definitely think it is a good thing. Teams all face serious pressure in the premier league as everyone needs points for survival, therefore it might be difficult for young players to receive their chances. Yet with the Sapling Cup, clubs can now afford to give promising youngsters their opportunities,” observed Cheung. “I certainly want to capitalize on this tournament and show the coaches what I can do on the pitch. Hopefully, that will put me in contention to start more games for Kitchee.” Promising youngster Harima Hirokane relishes the potential opportunity of getting the call in the Sapling Cup and is ready to showcase his own talent. “The Sapling Cup is a good chance for me to show the club and the coaching staff what I am capable of doing. Playing against a strong side such as Eastern can only enhance my own development, as you always tend to learn more going up against quality opponents,” said the Hong Kong Under-19 international.