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MLS PAN-PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 29, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
We are very, very honored to have to my immediate left, the chairman of the J-league, Mr. Kenji Onitake.
To Mr. Onitake's immediate left is the Senior Vice President of Soccer United Marketing's International Division, the organizer of the tournament, Mr. Nelson Rodriguez. Adjacent to Mr. Rodriguez on his left is the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaii, that's Mr. James Aiona.
Finally, a gentleman to soccer fans not only throughout the United States, but certainly in the State of Hawaii, he certainly needs no introduction, but I'm going to give him a little introduction. He is the pride of Halyava and Honolulu Bowls. Coming out of the State of Hawaii, and a three-time Major League Soccer Cup Champion currently a forward with the Houston Dynamo, and he was a member of the 2006 U.S. World Cup team, Mr. Brian Ching.
Also, so all of our journalists in attendance and watching via website and satellite know that we have a translator down here, our friend Mickey will translate a variety of comments from our featured speakers.
Finally, one guest who also might be joining us with some featured comments today, we're extremely pleased to announce today and we'll have further details regarding the presenting sponsor of the tournament, and that is the chairman, excuse me, the president and C.E.O. of MLJ, Incorporated, that is Mr. Ken Itani. Mr. Itani.
Finally, without further adieu, I'd like to turn it over to our first featured speaker. Excuse me, before we get to our first speaker, we're going to take a little preview of the tournament that will be forthcoming in February. Let's go to the video.
That was a great video. Little preview of what you'll see at Aloha Stadium. One gentleman that will be joining us via telephone and conference call and will be providing some remarks is the Chief Operating Officer of the Hyundai A-league, and that would be Mr. John O'Sullivan. So he'll be joining us via teleconference call during our program today.
So without further adieu, I'm going to turn it over to the group that is organizing the tournament that is Soccer United Marketing and Senior Vice President, Mr. Nelson Rodriguez.
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: Thank you all for attending today. It is with true and deep, great pride that I sit before you in what we believe to be an historic moment. And I'm also very prideful in sharing it with so many dedicated and selfless people.
We believe this is an unprecedented event in bringing together three distinct leagues to stage a meaningful and authentic international competition. In fact, we believe it will be the most significant soccer event to ever come to Hawaii, and perhaps the greatest international event to come to the State of Hawaii at least in the last 25 years.
To stage such an event requires vision, courage, and wisdom. And it also requires a great home. I wish to recognize and thank the State of Hawaii represented today by Lieutenant Governor James Aiona. Also the office of Mayor Mufi Hannemann who is represented today by Jeff Golo, their Director of Customer Services. We've received nothing but a warm reception here and feel very good about bringing this great event to the Rainbow State.
I also wish to acknowledge the wisdom and leadership of the J. League Chairman, Mr. Kenji Onitake who has been very instrumental in making sure this event happens, and we're excited to be working with him.
We recognize the commitment of John O'Sullivan, and the entire Football Federation of Australia.
This event also requires great conviction and relief through a lot of different partners. We are thrilled today to have MLJ, Inc., as our presenting sponsor, and Mr. Ken Itani their President and C.E.O. There can be no better headquarters than the Hilton Hawaii Village Resort and Spa, and for that, we thank Mr. Jon Conching, and Susie Wong. Jon is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Susie is the Sales Director.
Aloha Stadium, as you will learn in a few minutes, will serve as the venue for this great event. We wish to thank Scott Chin, and Ms. Lois Manin for their support and assistance to date.
Honolulu County Sports Commission has been very helpful in providing us with leads and assistance, some of their representatives are here today, and I thank them for attending.
There's been a variety of area soccer leaders, just a brief list of whom we wish to recognize. Bob Barry, from Chaminade University, Sergio Bolio from MISO, Brendan Cravalho, from AYSO. Scott Keopuhiwa with a from HYSA. Phil Netto from the Honolulu Bowls, and Cheryl Shimizu from WISA.
Without further adieu, I'd like to, on behalf of Major League Soccer and in association with the J. League and the A. League and the State of Hawaii, announce and present to you an International Tournament to be hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Pan Pacific Championship as presented by MLJ.
The inaugural edition of this event will be held in February 2008, with specific game dates on Wednesday the 20th, and Saturday the 23rd. This tournament will feature four teams competing in two doubleheaders, a semifinal doubleheader format on the 20th, and a championship and third place match on Saturday the 23rd.
There will be other events staged throughout the week, leading up to the Championship on the 23rd, and those events will not only take place on this island, but all of the surrounding islands as well, as we try very hard to make the entire Hawaiian community part of this great event.
The specific game schedule will feature on Wednesday the 20th the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Champion Gamba Osaka faced against the Major League Soccer representative, and 2007 SuperLiga finalist, Los Angeles Galaxy.
Gamba Osaka is spearheaded by a 19-year-old Japanese sensation Michihiro Yasuda, and J. League star, Yasuhito Endo. The Galaxy's international roster is headed by English superstar and icon David Beckham, and MLS perennial All-Star and U.S. National Team Captain Landon Donovan, as well as their new head coach Mr. Ruud Gullit.
That first game will be Wednesday the 20th at Aloha Stadium between Gamba Osaka and the Galaxy at 6:00 p.m. local time. Immediately following that game, our second two clubs will be featured. MLS Cup reigning and two-time consecutive champion Houston Dynamo, led by native son, Brian Ching, will meet the representative of the A. League. That representative will be determined in the first few weeks of February, and it will be the highest ranking A. League team that does not advance to the grand final series. That game will immediately follow the 6:00 o'clock start at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday the 20th at 8:30. Houston Dynamo versus the A. League representative.
The final and third place will be held on Saturday the 23rd, the third place match kicking off the doubleheader at 6:00 p.m., and the championship pitting the two winners from Wednesday at 8:30.
Television contracts are being finalized, but we expect there to be worldwide distribution of this event and coverage locally here in Hawaii. Tickets for the event will go on sale the first week in December, and we'll be making a separate announcement, providing further details on how tickets can be secured.
And in the meantime, we encourage fans to visit the official tournament website which has been beautifully prepared by MLJ at www.PPChampionship.net, for constant updates and new information as we get closer to the tournament.
Again, I thank all of you for being in attendance today. We look forward to working with you and to staging a world class event here in Hawaii this coming February.
With that, I'd like to formally introduce Lieutenant Governor James Aiona.
LT. GOVERNOR AIONA: Aloha and good morning to all of you. I want to thank Nelson and SUM for thinking of Hawaii. I think what it does for the State of Hawaii is it really confirms what we here in Hawaii know and that is that we are the best bridge between Japan, Australia and the United States.
I know I speak on behalf of the entire soccer community when I say that we are very, very excited about this tournament. Nelson, you just got me so excited, I want to get tickets right now.
And I will also note that what this does, it not only confirms that we have the venue, that we have the facilities, that you'll have the support, but also that you have the fans, that you have the soccer fans here in the State of Hawaii.
I know I'm going to show my age, but that doesn't bother me. When I was growing up, we didn't have soccer as a sport, as an activity to engage in. The sport was baseball, it was basketball, it was football. But I can attest now that here in Hawaii, soccer is now probably the most participated sport in this state, and it's growing.
It's growing because of not only what Major League Soccer and the rest of international soccer is doing by staging events here in Hawaii like this, but also because of people like the person sitting next to me, Brian Ching.
I want to commend Brian and congratulate him for everything that he's done in his career as a professional athlete. But I think more importantly, I want to congratulate Brian for being the person that he is. I think his conduct on the field and off the field has been tremendous. He's proven to be a great role model for not only the fans and the other professionals in Major League Soccer, but I think also here in Hawaii.
I think the children here in Hawaii see what he's done not only on growing up in the A. Leagues, but also in college and now as a professional, and they want to emulate his conduct. They want to emulate his play. And that is something that drives, I think, not only the sport here in Hawaii, but tournaments such as this. So we thank you for inviting his team.
Of course, we know he was part of the draw, but the Houston Dynamo has proven itself being champions in the last three years, I think it is. And, as such, they are well-deserving of participating in this tournament.
Again, Nelson, we just want to thank you. I speak on behalf of the entire soccer community here in the State of Hawaii. I express my aloha and appreciation for Governor Lingle. I know Mayor Hannemann who is not here right now would also want me to express his appreciation also for you being here.
And also to affirm and confirm for you once again that you have our utmost support in making, this as you stated, a world premier soccer tournament. Not only for the fans here in the State of Hawaii, but throughout the Pacific-Asian region.
So as we say in Hawaii, until we meet again. We want to welcome all of you in Asia, in Japan, and Australia to come and take part as spectators in this beautiful state of ours. The weather that you see now, and I'm sure we're going to get a pan of the weather that you see now, it will be the same weather you'll see in February. In fact, it will be even better.
We invite you to come here. Come early, stay late, spend a lot of money and enjoy soccer. Aloha, God bless you all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Lieutenant Governor. Now we'll move on to our next featured speaker. Once again, as I mentioned earlier are we are honored to have with us the J. League chairman, Mr. Kenji Onitake.
KENJI ONITAKE: Aloha, good morning. My name is Onitake Kenji. First of all, we greatly appreciate everybody who made this championship may happen. The Governor of Hawaii, Mayor of Honolulu, local community of soccers, Major League Soccer and the event organizers of Soccer United Marketing.
I came to Honolulu yesterday. I really feel very great, because the weather is great, and the conditions are great. So I feel really great right now.
Yes, again, I had a great time yesterday, but unfortunately I need to go back to Japan tonight. Because on December 1st, J. League have the last game, that's why I need to leave for Japan tonight. At the game on December 1st, the final champion will be decided. I need to hand the winning cup to the winning team on December 1st. That's why, again, unfortunately I need to go back to Japan tonight.
In Japanese Professional League, we have two big professional competitions. One is a regular season, and the other is a cup tournament. The cup tournament means that the J. League, Nabisco Cup, and the winner of this year's J. League Nabisco Cup is Gamba Osaka.
In Japan, it is a very popular team. Our team, again, is a major soccer team in Japan, wins Asian Confederation and Championship this year.
Gamba Osaka, and the leaders are competing against each other regularly to compete in the championship. I am not surprised that Gamba Osaka becomes champion of the Asian Confederation. So Gamba Osaka is a very great professional team in Japan, so I'm very pleased that Gamba Osaka represents a team from Major League Soccer and A. League.
I heard of teams that are great, and I hope Gamba Osaka shows a great performance in J. League. And I sincerely hope these exchanges will promote positive change for football Pan-Pacific.
Thank you again for everybody this championship makes happen. And I'm really looking forward to seeing the success of this event this coming February. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Now as I mentioned earlier, we are also honored to have joining us via teleconference from Australia, the Chief Operating Officer of the Hyundai A. League, Mr. John O'Sullivan. Mr. O'Sullivan are you with us?
MR. O'SULLIVAN: I am, indeed, thank you, Dan.
Good morning, everyone in Honolulu where I assume that it's as sunny as it is here in Sydney. Firstly, let me start by saying that on behalf of the Chief Executive Ben Buckley and myself, we apologize we were unable to be there in person this morning.
You may be aware that we've had our own test of MLS Soccer with the L.A. Galaxy, having hosted L.A. Galaxy in a one-off friendly match against Sydney here on Tuesday night. Which was then followed by the Asian Football Confederation Gala Awards on Wednesday night. So it's been a very hectic schedule. And to cap it all off, we have a board meeting in approximately an hour and a half. So I send my apologies.
Suffice to say, the FFA participate in the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championships in Honolulu in February. This is an important part of our overall strategy with football in Australia to engage in competition such as to Major League Soccer and also the J. League in meaningful and authentic competition. This is also another step for football in Australia to continue its renaissance which it has done over the last three to four years.
We've always been cognizant of the similarities between Major League Soccer and the J. League, in the fact that both of them are youngish competitions and both competitions have recently gone through some reform and are continuing their renaissance in their countries.
We'd like to thank MLS and Sum United Marketing, in particular, Nelson Rodriguez. We'd also like to extend our sincere thanks to you, Lieutenant Governor in the State of Hawaii for your support.
We all know too well just how important support from states such as yourselves are for the staging of these tournaments. Also to the new presenting partner, MLJ, as well. I can say we're very excited. As Ruud Gullit and David Beckham might tell you, we're a competitive bunch down here and we're only coming with one thing in mind, and that is to knock off Houston or Gamba or L.A. Galaxy in the final. So suffice to say, we're very excited.
We thank you for welcoming us into this competition, and we look forward to seeing you all in February of 2008. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. O'Sullivan. As I mentioned earlier today we are very pleased to announce today a partnership with a major international company as the presenting sponsor of the Pan-Pacific Championship, and that is MLJ.
Joining us here on behalf of MLJ is the President and C.E.O., Mr. Ken Itani.
KEN ITANI: My name is Ken Itani. We are very pleased to become presenting partner of the Pan-Pacific Championship which is a great international soccer competition around the Pan-Pacific region. The weather in Honolulu is great, and I'm happy to stage this competition in Hawaii.
I'm looking forward to seeing the huge success of this event this coming February, thank you so much. Aloha.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much Mr. Itani.
And finally, our last featured speaker, and the reason ultimately why we stage these events is the competition on the field. As I mentioned and also Nelson mentioned, he's a native son of Hawaii and the pride of Halyava. A three-time MLS Cup Champion including the past two seasons as a member of the Houston Dynamo. One of the best forwards in North American soccer, and an incredible player certainly arguably thee best in the air when it comes to scoring goals, Mr. Brian Ching.
BRIAN CHING: Aloha, everybody. First I just want to thank Dan and the Lieutenant Governor for those kind words. Making me blush a little bit.
Speaking as a player for the Houston Dynamo and for the MLS, I'm extremely excited about this tournament. We have some great competition and Gamba and the A. League as well.
So I can attest for everybody on our team saying that we can't wait to come here in February. But. On a personal level, it's been 12 years since I've actually played a competitive game in Hawaii, and it's something that as soon as I became a professional soccer player, I wanted to share with my friends and family back here in the islands. It's something I haven't been able to do up until this point.
Believe me, I was extremely ecstatic, and I still am. Just beaming inside. With the opportunity to come back here and share the aloha spirit, not only with my teammates, you know, but with the other teams that are involved in this competition as well.
I think it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for the soccer community here to come out and support us, and to really see what high-level soccer is, in person. And that is something that I know the governor, Lieutenant Governor dated himself earlier, but when I was growing up, we didn't have that opportunity either.
I think it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for the kids to come out and see, you know, players such as myself and the Landon Donovans and the stars on the teams. To learn from that and see that up-close and personal, you know, hopefully take inspiration from that and see the level of play and see where they need to go and how to get there.
Like I said, I'm just extremely excited, and I can't wait until February rolls around.
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: Brian mentioned inspiration and just to show the character of Mr. Brian Ching, who we actually asked on relatively short notice because his team just won the championship a couple of weeks ago. But in addition to joining us here at the press conference today, later this afternoon at 3:30 p.m., he will be out at Iolani School talking to the school children out there about life skills and also soccer skills and how he's achieved what he has. Certainly, I'm sure will he inspire them.
So we invite our journalists and other constituents here to join us out there again at 3:30 p.m. local time at the school today. After that, we'll move on to our formal question-and-answer session. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions from our journalists.
Q. I was just wondering if there are going to be any international tournaments during that time that might take away a couple of the really good players on the teams?
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: The only FIFA date in February is the 6th of February. And we think this tournament is uniquely positioned in the soccer calendar to showcase all of the great players. We also think there will be worldwide attention on the event. There is a little bit of an empty calendar at that particular time in the year for the global soccer calendar.
So we're very excited. All of the teams are committed to bringing the best players and showcasing them. You've already heard the competitive spirit from our friends down under. Brian is a little more diplomatic, but the Houston Dynamo certainly have great pride and have demonstrated that pride and resiliency not only from winning the MLS Cup and showing their performance in our confederation.
I assure you having been at the Nabisco Cup Final, that Gamba Osaka is not only an excellent side, it is also an entertaining side. And lastly, the L.A. Galaxy with their array of stars and Mr. O'Sullivan just mentioned they were just in Sydney.
While they lost to Sydney AFC, they put 80,000 people in that building. They're playing in New Zealand tomorrow night, I believe, they've already sold that game out. And they've been quite a phenomenon. So I think you'll see a spirited competition featuring all of the top stars.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with our questions. Just a quick note as Nelson mentioned when it comes to the players, we have a satellite news feed going up later today, and we have some comments not only from Brian Ching that we taped a few weeks ago, but also from Landon Donovan from the L.A. Galaxy who said he was looking forward to coming out here. Not only enjoying the competition, but also the fact that he's going to get to play some golf. He's a big golfer.
David Beckham who has never been to Hawaii, and he's thrilled to be coming here for his preseason and playing in some great competition. So we have some of those comments in the press kit coming here to Honolulu. It will be shared on the internet later today.
It gives you an idea outside of Brian Ching, it is a given that he loves to come to Hawaii because his family's from here, but some of the other athletes who are certainly looking forward to coming to Hawaii in February.
So we'll continue with our questions here for the journalists here at the Hilton today.
Q. For local soccer fans, there was a time when Aloha Stadium stands would be able to accommodate a soccer field. The stands are now locked in place in American football configuration. I don't know, maybe Brian can address this, maybe the Lieutenant Governor. Will there be enough space on that field in a soccer configuration the way the stands are now locked at Aloha Stadium?
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: Yes, there will be. Admittedly, it will be just slightly less than ideal, but we can comfortably and safely fit a competitive sized regulation field into that configuration.
We will use the existing field surface that is in place through the great support and friendship that we've garnered so far through the Aloha Stadium Authority. We will cover over or erase the American gridiron markings, so that it will only be soccer lined markings on the field.
But the field will be in terrific shape, and we're confident that the fans will be entertained.
THE MODERATOR: As we continue our questions. Brian, have you ever played soccer at Aloha Stadium?
BRIAN CHING: No, unfortunately, I haven't. But I'm really looking forward to it. It's a great facility. I've been there a number of times to watch the UHN men's football team play. I know that they used to have a USL team there, the Tsunami. So like I said, our team is used to playing on slightly smaller fields. I think it will be an advantage for us, and I can't wait to get out there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, we'll continue with questions from our journalists here.
Q. We're curious to find out, because soccer in Japan is fanatic. We have a lot of fans out there. So we're wondering about how many fans from Japan or from the A. League from Australia do we expect to come and participate in this Pan-Pacific Championship?
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: If Mr. Onitake will allow me, before he offers a response. I will tell you, having been at the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Final, the fan support as you mentioned was tremendous. And Gamba Osaka showed incredible fan support, lot of pageantry, color and passion. They are also known for being a traveling supporter group. So we do expect significant numbers to follow its team out of Gamba to Hawaii.
As Mr. O'Sullivan mentioned in Australia with the renaissance they're enjoying and the partisan support that their team is likely to have, we suspect they'll have some fans as well.
I also want to mention that we're confident that the soccer community will enjoy this event. The international nature and the authentic competition of the event itself promises to transcend just soccer. We think there will be a large cross-section of the general sports public to come to Aloha Stadium to see these events.
Soccer United Marketing has had a bright and encouraging and successful history in staging these competitions. We are grateful for the support that has not only been communicated today by the Lieutenant Governor, but has been felt by us since we first started to come here about 18 months ago in planting the seeds and meeting with various constituent groups.
So we expect the fan support to be there out of Japan, out of Australia, out of mainland U.S.A. Of course, if any of our European football fans want a taste of some exciting high-level soccer, we encourage them to visit Hawaii as well.
KENJI ONITAKE: After I go back to Japan, I will try to come to Hawaii this coming February to see the competition. I went to Aloha Stadium yesterday and found that from 200 to 300 media seats available. I also asked Japanese media to come to this event, this competition next February.
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: If I may add one other remark, we learned already from the Hilton Hawaii Village Resort and Spa that a request for 80 rooms has already been submitted today around the Pan-Pacific Championship dates. So that might give you an early indication of the type of excitement that this announcement is already generating.
LT. GOVERNOR AIONA: If I can add something to that, I would expect past events to be a trend with our Japanese visitors. I took part in a bicycle ride this past summer, and it had 4,000 participants in this ride. 2,000 of which were from Japan. As you know, the Honolulu Marathon has about almost 30,000 participants, and I believe well over 10,000 participants are from Japan.
So we do have a very, very good relationship with Japan. I'm sure that we will get a lot of fans, as well as just visitors from Japan coming to Hawaii to participate in this event, but also to enjoy the beauty and culture of Hawaii.
Q. Working together, this is the greatest content that ties into our program. My question is, is this going to be -- before I do that, I want to introduce Colonel Brown from Stanford Research Institute from Florida, one of our associates is here with us working on this program on internet television. But my question is is this going to be an ongoing event, or is it just a one-time testing platform for Hawaii? Or are we looking at a five-year yearly event that we can program our clients and people to? This is exciting, I think, to have an international event, a global event. Football is only a domestic event, but we love this, because content is king to us in the new field of internet television, yeah?
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. And good luck to you in your venture. It is certainly our intention for this to be an annual event. That commitment has already been expressed by the J. League, by the FFA, and the Hyundai A. League, it's also been expressed by our title sponsor MLJ.
We have every reason to believe that this event will only grow. From a specific perspective of SUM United Marketing, everything in which we undertake is taken with a long-term vision and a long-term perspective. We believe Hawaii will prove itself to be a great home for this event. We would like nothing more than for it to permanently reside in Hawaii.
We will continue to speak to our partners at the J. League and Hyundai A. League to see if the format remains or whether we wish to play some of the matches in Hawaii and some of the matches elsewhere or have it be rotational. But this is intended to be an ongoing annual Pan-Pacific Championship. We're confident that the successes we'll enjoy in February will make it very difficult to consider another location.
Q. I realize this is an off-season tournament for MLS and for the J. League, so how much practice time are those representatives going to get before the February tournament?
NELSON RODRIGUEZ: I cannot speak for the J. League, and I'll let Brian add any comments if he wishes to. Typically, our off-season begins for Major League Soccer teams at the onset of February. However, a team such as the Dynamo who have participated in other international competitions such as the CONCACAF Champions Cup in the past has traditionally started earlier.
Also, as I mentioned, there is an intense winning spirit of our southern friends at Houston. So I suspect that their coaching staff with Dom Kinnear will look to bring the boys in a little bit early to prepare fully. Brian, any additional comments?
BRIAN CHING: I feel like last year we started our season a little bit early. We got into the CONCACAF Championship, and we played some meaningful games there. You know, I see this as this tournament as being pretty meaningful, especially for myself. But it's something we'll come in and be ready for.
We were ready for our competition after months of training last year, and I suspect it will be the same way this year.
KENJI ONITAKE: J. League starts the regular season in the beginning of March. With it being fair, generally, every team starts practice from the mid-January to the end of January. So mid-February is the actual competition will be held. And the timing, most of the teams are ending their practice period.
I think in terms of timing, it is the best timing to participate most of the J. League teams to participate in this type of events. So I really encourage the Japanese Professional League to participate in this event. Not only this year, but also in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. If we have any additional questions, we have time for probably one more question.
Excellent. I'd like to thank all of those joining us here today at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa. Also all of those joining us on the internet and via satellite for today's historic announcement.
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