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FIFA Insider: Up close at the Barclays Asia Trophy

Posted July 30th at 12:00am.

This month, I, like so many other Australian fans of the English Premier League, finally got the long-awaited chance to see my heroes up close and in the flesh.

No, I’m not talking about either of those mobs that play in red and flew Down Under this month… I’m talking about Manchester City and the fact that I was lucky enough to win a trip to Hong Kong to watch them play in the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Being a Manchester City supporter, this was a dream come true. I was to be flown to Hong Kong to watch the Barclays Asia Trophy matches, which also featured Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, and Hong Kong champions South China AA, as well as getting the chance to preview and road test EA SPORTS upcoming FIFA 14.

Meeting my heroes up close and personal

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, I was greeted by the sight of a beautiful city on the harbour, with tall apartment buildings rising up from lush tree-covered hills. In the middle of Hong Kong’s wet season, the 30°C heat combined with 95% humidity would certainly make for difficult footballing conditions.

Sure enough, the weather was to play a large part in the opening matches of the Barclays Asia Trophy, with heavy rain soaking most of the city throughout the day, and the pitch at Hong Kong Stadium was no exception.

Tottenham and Sunderland walked out onto a damp and heavy pitch, but it did not dampen the excitement of the Hong Kong fans, who gasped and cheered at every touch, trick and tackle.

Tottenham quickly adjusted to the conditions, and went ahead early through a deflected Gylfi Sigurdsson strike, but Sunderland soon found their feet and equalised thanks to a neat finish by Cabral to square it up by the break. The sides returned to do battle in the second half, with Sunderland taking the momentum and the lead through a Wes Brown header not long after a Jan Vortongen injury.

Some Brad Friedel heroics kept Tottenham in the game, before a neat finish from David Moberg Karlsson sealed the game 3-1.

City stepped out in their new charcoal and black away kit, launched in Hong Kong that same week , whilst the home crowd got behind their local underdogs. Unfortunately for the home support, their Premier League opponents dominated possession and went ahead through an Edin Dzeko headed goal. Despite some close calls in defence and an exciting cameo from new signing Alvaro Negredo, it was to remain 1-0, securing Manchester City a spot opposite Sunderland in the Barclay’s Asia Trophy final.

All about the bragging rights

Whilst it may not have been a fully fledged competitive fixture, it was a chance to see my team live and in-person, a feeling that I’m sure was shared by the Manchester United fans at SFS, as well as those Liverpool supporters at the MCG. Here’s hoping that these Premier League sides (and other big clubs, for that matter) keep coming out to play in Australia and Asia.

Later, I’m set to attend an EA SPORTS preview event for FIFA 14, as well as a Pro Player tournament. The rumour is that there will be a few Manchester City and Tottenham players there. Tell you all about it in part 2 of this blog series.

Nick Leggat

Nick Leggatt resides in Melbourne, Victoria and supports Manchester City. His views are not a reflection of Electronic Arts.