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Beijing upbeat despite English big-four snub

BEIJING hopes that hosting the Asia Trophy will help it become the continent's soccer center despite the absence of a top-four finisher from the English Premier League for the first time in the tournament's history.

Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Hull City will contest the tournament with Beijing Guo'an on July 29 and 31 as part of the Beijing International Football Festival, which also includes the Italian Super Cup between Inter Milan and Lazio on August 8.

"The 2009 Asia Trophy will bring splendor to the festival," Beijing Football Association (BFA) director Hu Zhaoguan told a news conference yesterday.

"It will help us improve the status of Beijing in world sport and make Beijing the capital of Asian football."

It will also, however, be the first time that the biennial tournament will not feature one of the top four clubs from the preceding season after Chelsea (2003), Everton (2005) and Liverpool (2007) played in the previous three versions.

Clubs involved

The Premier League's Richard Masters said Chelsea, which finished third last season, had expressed an interest in taking part but subsequently decided not to, adding that the league was "very happy" with the trio of clubs involved.

"It's not really a commercial enterprise in the sense that it doesn't make finance for the Premier League," Masters, director of sales and marketing, explained.

"What it does is provide something back. What we export at the moment is a television signal.

"We don't always have the big clubs coming so it provides an opportunity for the smaller clubs to experience Asia and build their fan bases here."

Perhaps mindful that even the pull of clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid has failed to fill stadiums in China in recent years, organizers said tickets would be priced with the aim of getting as many fans into the stadium as possible.

While the Italian Super Cup will take place at the Bird's Nest on the first anniversary of the opening of the Beijing Olympics, the Asia Trophy will be at Guoan's home Worker's Stadium with a capacity of 49,000.


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