The past week, the English Premiere League went on their dreaded international break, leaving fans worldwide with a potential weekend of football withdrawal. However, that didn’t prevent Singaporean fans from catching a weekend match between Liverpool and Manchester United(seniors edition).
EPL action was all the rave in Singapore this past week as legends from two of the premiere league’s top associations were in town for the Castlewood Group Battle of the Reds. Set in a standard 11-a side format, 16 of the finest past players from Liverpool and Manchester United respectively flew down to Singapore specially for the first event of its kind.
Prior to the actual match day, most of the players started their weekend of events early by making their way to Singapore earlier on that Wednesday to attend a pre-match press conference. In attendance were the team captains, Man Utd’s Paul Parker and Liverpool great, Ian Rush. Both captains were coy about winning the game, and focused more on meeting the expectations of fans and having good old fun. However, as John Dykes pointed out, no matter where he is in the world, “this is the rivalry.” and we couldn’t wait for Saturday to come soon enough.
Thursday saw most of the players answer an early working call as they took some time off to pave the way for the next generation with a short session, imparting their knowledge to the younger generation at Tanglin Trust School. Fan interaction didn’t stop there as droves of fanatics turned up on Friday night for the players meet and greet at ION. Frantically trying to get an autograph or even a glimpse, the die-hards were definitely ready for the showdown.
What is usually a weekend exercise crowd became a sea of red supporters on Saturday as 27,000 fans reported to the National Stadium for the highly anticipated encounter. Standing there, with horns a blazing and the pitch side lined with official sponsor banners, you couldn’t help but feel that excitement of being at a competitive club match. All that excitement culminated in noise shattering cheers when the players took the pitch for their introductions. Fans were ecstatic and we were too.
But before the match began proper, a sombre one minute of silence was observed in honour of the victims of the terror attacks that rocked Paris just the night before – still very much fresh in the memory of those in attendance, especially for the former Manchester United/France player Louis Saha, who still carried on with the game.
Those die hards who were willing enough to make the trip down were not disappointed. Having left their valued professions for on average 10 years, most players had lost a step. But what really took us by surprise was their footballing skills. Their play was on point with their crisp passing and intent to score. Though plays weren’t as well executed due to lack of physical match fitness, it was still an absolute pleasure to watch Champions League Winners like Steve McManaman and Luis Garcia play at such a high level. The fan boy in me could barely control my excitement.
As for the match itself, it was a rather one-sided affair, with Liverpool holding most of the advantage throughout the game and coming out 2-0 winners. The Liverpool Masters broke the duck with the first goal of the evening – a lovely cross from Jan Kromkramp on the right found Luis Garcia’s head who popped it past Nick Culkin.
This was followed by a second goal by the team in red when Dietmar Hamman blasted in a goal from just outside the penalty box. Man Utd had its chances to equalise too but was just lacking that clinical touch in the last third of the field. No doubt, much credit has to be given to the KOP supporters, whose chants of “Liverpool, Liverpool” echoed through the stadium. Ian Rush, team captain for so many winning Liverpool teams in the past, once again captained yet another triumphant Liverpool team and raised the champions trophy for the Castlewood Group Battle of the Reds Trophy at the conclusion of a very entertaining match and successful event.
Overall, the entire organisation of the event, from the promotion to the fan interaction between players and fans, as well as the actual match, has been fantastic. The local fan base also did their part to contribute to the success of the event. It was amazing to see how passionate Singaporean were about their football heroes even after all these years. The culture of soccer is truly alive here. As Liverpool Captain Ian Rush rightly puts, “The history of the two clubs is absolutely fantastic, and it’s always great to come to this part of the world and entertain the supporters. The fans of Liverpool and Manchester United in this part of the world are incredible, and just seeing the amount of support and turnout made us want to win for them. We can be friends after this but on the pitch we are enemies who want to win simply because of the great support.”
The only thing left to do is to include Arsenal and Chelsea into the tournament and make it a tourney next year.
Photo opportunity courtesy of Full Circle Pr.
Full Album from the match can be found here