Hong Kong football boss hopes arrival of Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will boost game’s commercial pull in city

Inter Miami will stage an open training session at Hong Kong Stadium on February 3, the day before what Fok called “a big showdown, a spectacular football game”.

“Hong Kong has such a great sports scene,” Beckham said. “In partnership with Tatler, we are pleased to be able to bring the team to this fantastic city as part of Inter Miami’s debut game in Asia.”

The Major League Soccer club acquired Messi, an eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and considered by many to be the word’s greatest footballer, in July. Their squad also features the Argentine’s former Barcelona teammates, Sergio Busquets, a World Cup winner in 2010, and Jordi Alba.

“Hong Kong is Inter Miami’s first destination in Asia, which makes the city the sporting hub of the region,” Fok, the Hong Kong Football Association chairman, said.

“The HKFA wants to cultivate football fever in Hong Kong. If we have a strong fan base, we can commercialise football, and have more resources and funding to support our teams and players.

“We are constantly trying to improve the development of football and create engagement for local fans.”

How many fans attend the one-off game, which is being organised in partnership with Tatler Asia, will depend on whether people balk at the cost of tickets.

Just attending an open training session on February 3 would set you back between HK$580 and HK$780, while tickets for the game itself range from HK$880 to an eye-watering $HK4,880.

“The pricing was decided by our commercial partners, they are delivering the games,” Fok said. “It is a commercial decision and we respect that.”

Hong Kong’s Asian Cup group campaign wraps up on January 23, with Round of 16 matches scheduled over four days between January 28-31.

But Fok was adamant that Messi and Co would be confronted by strong opposition.

“This is not only a great opportunity for the fans, but also for the players – and we want the best players,” Fok said.

“It will be a Hong Kong team and we will leave selection to coach Andersen. This is a good chance to experience the top level and raise the standard of Hong Kong football.”

Fok said he had spoken directly to Beckham, reminding the former Manchester United and England midfielder of the “spectacular atmosphere” when he played in Hong Kong soon after joining Real Madrid in summer 2003.

The match is being staged in collaboration with Tatler Asia, a union Fok said was a one-off. He is, however, exploring further partnerships, with a view to attracting a wave of illustrious clubs to Hong Kong.

Indeed, the next high-profile visitors could arrive very soon after Inter Miami depart, with the HKFA in the final stages of arrangements for the return of the Lunar New Year Cup after a four-year absence.

“We are talking about another competition and hope to confirm details, including the number of participants [either two or four teams], as soon as possible,” Fok said. “We are in discussions with foreign clubs.

“I have a new vision of how to work closely with the business and private sectors. We are looking forward to working with many different partners, to host more matches in Hong Kong, which will open up the border and rekindle the historical interest in football in the city.”

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