Auckland City FC will become the first ever New Zealand team to compete in the Nike Lunar New Year Cup when they travel to Hong Kong for the competition starting 28 January.

The 2016 OFC Champions League title holders are one of four clubs playing in the tournament alongside hosts Kitchee SC, FC Seoul (Republic of Korea) and SCG Muangthong United FC (Thailand).

The four teams will play in a single knockout match on 28 January with the winner of each match progressing to the final on 31 January while the other two teams will meet in a third place playoff.

The Lunar New Year Cup is an annual football tournament organised by the Hong Kong Football Association and is usually held on the first and the fourth day of the Chinese New Year as a part of the New Year celebrations.

Auckland City FC chairman Ivan Vuksich was delighted to see the Navy Blues getting the call up after the Australia U-23 national team withdrew from the competition.

“We were only too delighted to agree and with the help and understanding of New Zealand Football, Hamilton Wanderers, Hawke’s Bay United and Southern United, our Stirling Sports Premiership programme was put on hold,” he said.

“We hope this opens doors not only for ourselves but other Stirling Sports Premiership clubs to participate in international club competitions.

“We and Team Wellington helped provide opposition for Japan and Qatar in recent years so our reputation as a credible opponent for top quality sides is growing.”

Auckland City FC were scheduled to face Southern United on 29 January at Kiwitea Street then Hamilton Wanderers away on 1 February midweek.

With the Navy Blues now headed to Hong Kong for the third time in just two months those fixtures have now been rescheduled to 15 February (Hamilton Wanderers) and 22 February (Southern United).

This creates something of a fixture logjam for the club with no less than nine games in the next 29 days.

Vuksich says the congested programme is worth taking part in a tournament with such a rich history and against top quality opponents.

“The fixture list is tough but we accept that as the price for participating in the Nike Lunar New Year Cup,” he said.

“We have the OFC Champions League coming up in March but we’re not complaining. It’s great to be playing more games and we see it as an opportunity to raise our profile and that of the game in Oceania and New Zealand.”

Story courtesy of Auckland City FC