Robbie Fowler to be embraced by Singapore fans
North Queensland Fury will officially introduce themselves to Asian football with a glamour friendly in Singapore against the S-League's Tampines Rovers next week. The match at Jalan Besar Stadium on May 31 will mark Fury's first 'competitive' fixture and was put together by Australian FIFA match agent Lou Sticca and his Singapore partners, Red Card.
Sticca told tribalfootball.com: "North Queensland Fury weren't content with a simple local preseason. Why would you when you have a Liverpool icon like Robbie Fowler on your books? When they approached me about an Asian preseason tour I immediately thought of R Sasikumar and Red Card, who have worked with successfully in the past.
"The tour Red Card have put together for the Fury is exciting - and I know the people at the club are very appreciative of what the Singapore promises them." Sasikumar, of Red Card, says it won't be a simple one-off friendly tour for the Fury, with training sessions and fans events also organised.
He told tribalfootball.com: "We are very excited at the Fury's tour to Asia, and are a little sad that due to the current situation of outbreak of the H1N1 virus in Malaysia, we have had to cancel the scheduled matches in Malaysia.
"Nevertheless, its going to be a great opportunity to see Robbie Fowler and his team in action for the first time in competitive play and Singapore and the Tampines Rovers have the unique opportunity in hosting the Fury in this event.
"Both clubs have a great amount of talent in their squads, with Tampines being recent S League champions in 2005 when they were also the first Singapore team to win the ASEAN Club Championship that same year. The match is going to be a treat for all football fans - fans of Robbie, fans of Liverpool and fans of football simply as a whole.
"Our mission at Red Card is to bring quality games to the region, and we are sure that the game will be a great one, and a unique experience to boot. In addition to the main game, there will be a charity game featuring a reunion of sorts, where the Singapore team of the 1990s which won the Malaysia cup will face a team of local celebrities. Given that most of these guys have not played together as a team in a decade, it is going to be a treat especially for local fans to see the likes of Abbas Saad and Fandi Ahmad team up again so it will be a special night."
Sasikumar admits the presence of Fowler has opened doors in Asia for the Fury. Indeed, officials from the Football Association of Singapore were eager for the tour to be locked in as soon as they heard of Fowler's involvement.
"Definitely having Robbie Fowler on the team list did get the Football Association of Singapore(FAS) excited at the prospect of his return, having last seen him in Liverpool colours in 2001," said Sasikumar, who adds the Fury represent opposition S-League clubs are crying out for.
"More importantly, they did see the need for more top level clubs to come and give local S League clubs more exposure at that level. At current only four S League clubs get to play regionally in the Asian Football confederation (AFC) Champions League and the AFC Cup, with only one S League representative currently playing in the top tier AFC Champions League against top clubs from Japan, Korea and Australia among others. In order for football in Singapore and the region to grow especially among the S League clubs there needs to be more games like these."
"There is great expectation of his arrival, as previously mentioned there is a strong fan base here. We have arranged a gala dinner for sponsors and business leaders, in addition to other key media appearances," adds Sasikumar.
"We are ensuring that we balance commitments in constant consultation with Fury management and coaching staff bearing in mind he is in Singapore to play in a game for the season ahead."
Indeed, Sasikumar says nothing has been left to chance, with Fury to enjoy top draw facilities during their time in Singapore.
He said: "We have worked very closely with Ian Ferguson and his staff on the team's requirements, from food at the hotel to transport and to training facilities. We have managed to secure the playing venue for all the training sessions for the fury, an FIFA approved synthetic turf which is one of the best facilities available in the country.
"It's going to be definitely a warm welcome in Singapore especially with the weather! Fans in Singapore are curious to see the Fury make their debut, and with the established Liverpool fan base here there is definitely going to be support for the team 'God' plays for!"
With media events, junior coaching clinics and fans functions all lined up, this tour is no smash-and-grab by the Fury and Sasikumar is confident Singapore's football fans will appreciate the Australian club's commitment: "There has been great interest in Singapore on the game, as well as the charity game as mentioned.
"Everyone is keen to see the Fury come out on debut here and we urge all fans in Singapore to come down and experience the game!"