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Friday 28 June 2013

Barclays Asia Trophy: Di Canio's winning vow

Italian reveals why he is looking forward to taking Sunderland to the Barclays Asia Trophy

Paolo Di Canio believes the 2013 Barclays Asia Trophy will offer him the perfect opportunity to instil a “winning mentality” in his Sunderland players ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season. “I want to win this tournament,” the Sunderland head coach declared to

"The Barclays Asia tournament is very important because we are going to face the top sides and it’s the dream of every player to play every game against a top side"
Paolo Di Canio

Sunderland will face Tottenham Hotspur at the Hong Kong Stadium on 24 July in the Barclays Asia Trophy semi-finals before taking on Manchester City or South China on finals day three days later, and, having only taken charge of the Wearside club on 31 March, Di Canio cannot wait to get the chance to spend the time he needs to convey his footballing ethos to his players.

“My primary objective is to be the team that will fight every single game together, so for this we have to spend as much as we can the time together to bond and to become a very united team,” he said. “I want to deliver my message in the way we want to play – the tactical strategy – to deliver a clear identity in the way we want to play, and this period can help me a lot because we have the chance to stay all day together.

“We can do double sessions, then some friendly games and when something goes wrong I can have a chat with them straight away rather than when you are during the season after the training session they run away. This is a very important period for every coach because the first input, the first period, the first months are crucial and those two months can decide the outcome and the destiny of the season.”

Must-win attitude

The former Swindon Town manager was given seven matches to preserve Sunderland’s top-flight status when he arrived at the club in the spring, and two wins and two draws proved sufficient to keep the club in the Barclays Premier League. With salvation secured Di Canio intends to imbue his side with a must-win attitude that will prevent a similar near-escape in the future.

"I expect a lot of enthusiasm because I know that Asian people, Chinese, they are mad for football"
Paolo Di Canio

“I want to win every game,” said the Italian. “Even when we have a friendly game I have a winning mentality, even when I play cards with my daughter I want to win every time. I want to upset her because I want to win. My mentality is to win every game.

“There are obvious priorities: the Premier League is more important than friendly games but only if we deliver this mentality can we take every competition seriously. So the Barclays Asia tournament is very important because we are going to face the top sides and it’s the dream of every player – this is the mission: to play every game against a top side.

“The fact that we have the chance to do this in Hong Kong means only the country changes, not the desire, the commitment that we have to deliver on the field, so it’s a good opportunity. We want to win the tournament and we will do everything we can.”

Hong Kong following

As well as learning a new mentality, Sunderland’s players will also grow to understand how well known they are to the local supporters in East Asia. Having played in Hong Kong himself when on a pre-season tour as an AC Milan player Di Canio recalls with fondness the passion for European football – and he is predicting that the global pull of the Barclays Premier League will surprise some of his charges.

“To have this experience where you can meet people far away from your country and they are mad for them that can make them understand and realise how lucky they are,” Di Canio said. “They should already think they are very lucky but to think that you are a well-known person even in China is an amazing thing. Only when you test it can you understand in reality what is going on, so it will be a very good experience for them.”

With tickets for finals day already sold out and only a few left for Sunderland’s encounter with Tottenham and Manchester City v South China, the popularity of the Premier League in Hong Kong is clear for all to see, and Di Canio is anticipating a lively atmosphere when the Black Cats arrive in town.

“I expect a lot of enthusiasm because I know that Asian people, Chinese, they are mad for football,” the 44-year-old said. “They love football then the fact that there will be there three of the main English clubs here, they are going to follow this tournament with interest.”

How to buy tickets for the Barclays Asia Trophy

Matchday tickets are still available for semi-finals day on 24 July but are selling fast, with seats in only two categories yet to be sold out.

24 July 27 July
Category C   $300 (£25) SOLD OUT
Category D   $250 (£21) SOLD OUT
Students & Senior Citizens

Tickets for the Barclays Asia Trophy 2013 are available to purchase in Hong Kong via Cityline, the official ticketing agency of the Barclays Asia Trophy, through the following sources:

  • Online with Cityline - click here
  • Cityline telephone booking hotline – 00 852 2111 5333 (10am-8pm daily)
  • Cityline and Tom Lee Music Outlets in Hong Kong

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Key Points

  • Paolo Di Canio believes Barclays Asia Trophy represents an important opportunity for his Sunderland side
  • The Italian intends to use tournament to instil winning mentality
  • Watch the video for Di Canio's views on winning, coaching and Hong Kong