Australians slow to embrace football’s International Champions Cup

Melbourne, July 20 (IANS) The all-star International Champions Cup (ICC) featuring three of Europe’s biggest football clubs begins in Melbourne this weekend — however local football fans have failed to buy into the hype.

Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are set to feature in the ICC at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) over the next fortnight, in what is billed as a showcasing “Europe’s best” to Australian football fans, reports Xinhua.

However Juventus’ decision to leave 13 of their best players at home has underlined the true nature of the tournament — a glorified series of friendly fixtures — and Australians have been reluctant to purchase tickets which are selling for up to $160.

According to Fairfax Media, Saturday night’s opening ICC fixture between Juventus and local powerhouse Melbourne Victory is expected to draw just 25,000 to 30,000 fans — similar to what Victory draws to a home fixture during the A-League season.

The crowd of that size would be well short of the 99,382 fans which packed the rafters of the MCG during last year’s ICC clash between European heavyweights Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Last year’s tournament drew a total of 221,262 fans over the three matches, with star players Cristiano Ronaldo, Francesco Totti, Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure making sizable appearances.

But after Juventus arrived in Melbourne without captain Gianluigi Buffon, Girogio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Dani Alves, Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira among others, there is speculation the matches may fail to capture the imagination of fans.

Despite the poor ticket sales, Tottenham are expected to name front-line striker Harry Kane, while earlier this week Atletico forward Fernando Torres said he was “really excited” to take to the field in Melbourne. It is unsure if forward Antoine Griezmann, fresh off playing for France in the Euro 2016 tournament, will make the trip down under.

In addition to Kane, Spurs could field big names Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, Atletico could showcase Koke, Diego Godin and Filipe Luis while Juventus will be led by Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala.

Following Saturday night’s opening match between Victory and Juventus, the Italian giants will play English powerhouse Tottenham Hotspur, while Atletico will face the Spurs in the final ICC clash.

A separate match between Atletico Madrid and Melbourne Victory is scheduled to be played in the regional city of Geelong on July 31.

ICC Australia schedule:

Melbourne Victory v Juventus, MCG, Saturday

Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur, MCG, Tuesday

Tottenham v Atletico de Madrid, MCG, Friday

–IANS

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