Thursday, July 12, 2007

SEOUL — While David Beckham and English giant Chelsea make headlines in America this week, two English clubs of more moderate means arrived in South Korea today to take part in the third installment of the biennial Peace Cup.

Bolton Wanderers and Reading FC — both of the English Premier League — will compete in the eight-team event, which is scheduled to begin today, although monsoon rains threaten the city.

The tournament, which began in 2003, continues to attract noted clubs from around the globe and appears to have become a permanent fixture on the international soccer calendar. According to a member of the organizational committee, the 2009 event likely will be held in Europe — possibly in Spain — where noted clubs Real Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla have shown “great interest” in participating in an enlarged 12-team event.

In this year’s Peace Cup, Bolton will compete in Group A and face Argentina’s River Plate, Spain’s Racing Santander and seven-time South Korean champion Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. In Group B, Reading plays Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara and French champion Olympique Lyon.

“It shows how far we have come as a football club when we get invited to play in tournaments like the Peace Cup,” Bolton captain Kevin Nolan said on the club’s Web site.

Founded in 1874, Bolton was one of the original 12 members of the Football League, the oldest soccer league in the world.

Reading struggled in its first season in top-flight English soccer.

“We are a small club with very little history that has come along way,” Reading club official Andrew West said. “Being here is a big step for us.”

Former D.C. United star Bobby Convey and U.S. national team goalie Marcus Hahnemann both play for Reading FC. However, the two Americans are recovering from injuries and didn’t make the trip to Korea.

The winners of each group advance to play in the final, which takes place in Seoul on July 21. The winner will win $2 million in prize money, while the runner-up earns $500,000. Profits from the tournament go to the Play Soccer Make Peace program, which sponsors soccer events in more than 30 countries.

Dutch giant PSV Eindhoven won the first Peace Cup in 2003 but failed in its attempt to defend its title in 2005. Tottenham Hotspur of the EPL won the title in 2005 after beating two-time runner-up Lyon 3-1.

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