West Ham United can confirm the club will take part in the four-team Barclays Asia Trophy in Beijing, China next month as part of the club's pre-season preparations.
The prestigious event is being organised by the Premier League, the Beijing Football Association (BFA) and Barclays. West Ham will play Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday 29 July (11am London time) before Hull City take on local side Beijing Guoan later that same day (1.30pm). The two winners will then meet in the final on Friday 31 July (11am) after a third-place play-off (1.30pm) between the two losing sides from the opening matches.
Gianfranco Zola has plenty of experience of the Workers Stadium, which will stage all the matches, having coached the Italian national team at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Working with Pierluigi Casiraghi, Zola's team played there in front of more than 50,000 fans at the quarter-final stage, only to be defeated 3-2 by Belgium.
The manager is looking forward to be heading back to Beijing. "The Chinese people love football," he said. "I went there with the Italian Olympic team last year and it was clear they have a passion for the game. I was recognised by a lot of people and you could see that the Barclays Premier League is very popular over there. It is going to be an exciting experience for everyone and we are looking forward to going to Beijing.
"This pre-season, and the matches we will play in China, are going to be very important for us because it will allow us to prepare for the new season in the right way. The young players will gain more experience and it is going to help us to be stronger and improve on what we have achieved so far."
The Barclays Asia Trophy is one of the headline events at the inaugural 2009 Beijing Football International Festival. Now an established part of the Premier League's fixture calendar, the Barclays Asia Trophy has been staged in some of Asia's major cities - Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
With 49,000 tickets will be on sale for each matchday, the tournament will be officiated by Barclays Premier League and BFA match officials, and will also be staged in accordance with Barclays Premier League rules. Additionally, all matches will be broadcast locally in China, in the UK by Sky Sports and around the world. Pricing and advice on purchasing tickets will be announced shortly.
The Premier League has also committed to a full programme of 'Creating Chances' activities, including coaching initiatives, refereeing schemes and community schemes to run alongside the Barclays Asia Trophy. The Premier League will run one of its innovative Premier Skills coaching courses as well as a Barclays Asia Trophy Creating Chances Community Programme for 10-13 year-old children. The Premier League is working in close partnership with the BFA on both initiatives which will culminate on the Thursday when there will be a Barclays Asia Trophy Creating Chances Community Festival.
Premier Skills is an international coaching development project run by the Premier League and the British Council. Designed to leave lasting legacy, it provides week-long courses to coach the coaches at grassroots level in the morning and afternoon workshops on coaching best practice and community sport development. At the end of the course the coaches return to use their new skills in their local communities.
West Ham United will have two coaches to join representatives from the two other participating Premier League clubs to help run the course in Beijing from Friday 24 to Thursday 30 July. Former Premier League player Warren Barton will run Premier Skills in Beijing.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said: "All of us involved in the Barclays Asia Trophy are looking forward immensely to playing a successful part in the 2009 Beijing Football International Festival. We know that there is a great appreciation for Barclays Premier League football in China and we are anticipating passionate home support in the Workers Stadium.
"We also hope that our on and off-field knowledge will aid China's continued progress as a football nation. The development of the game in China is critical to football's future as the world's sport of choice.
"We have three fantastic clubs in Hull City, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur - each of them says something about what makes the Barclays Premier League so compelling. I am sure our clubs will take as much from the experience as Beijing Guoan and the BFA."
Click here for details of fan travel information.
*A West Ham United XI will head to Blue Square South side Thurrock on Friday 24 July, with kick-off at 7.45pm.
The match is the third against non-league opposition to be announced, with the Hammers also travelling to Blue Square Premier Grays Athletic on Sunday 12 July (3pm) and Ryman League Premeir Division Kingstonian on Friday 31 July.