By Walter Broeckx
With the real thing finally coming closer I thought it would be nice to have a look at the first match of the season and to have a look at our opponents and the venue where the match will be played.
The Barclays Asia Trophy is a tournament that is held every two years. For Arsenal it is the first time they take part. Stoke also is there for the first time. Everton participated in the tournament in 2005.
In short it is a trophy that is held in different countries in Asia like Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong ( a few times), China and now for the first time in Singapore. Usually the host nation enters with their national team (or a national XI) and for the rest 3 PL teams participate.
So far the winners have always been PL teams with only once the national team of Thailand making the final but losing against Bolton Wanderers. So far Chelsea has won it most with two wins and other winners are Portsmouth, Manchester City and yes the tiny totts can add this most prestigious award to their impressive list of honours. So one can be sure it will be first time winner in this tournament.
The matches will be played at the National Stadium in Singapore. A multi-purpose arena that has a capacity of 55.000 people for football matches. Apart from football matches it can also be used to play rugby, cricket and it also has an athletic track. The capacity then drops to 50.000. You cannot have the runners running between the seats of course so the stadium is modified to host other events. For the people who like cricket I just want to say that then the capacity is around 52.000.
The stadium is brand new as it only opened in 2014 just over one year ago and has a retractable roof . It is the largest dome structure in the world they say but I don’t know how accurate that is. The retractable roof opens in some 25 minutes and that is sometimes needed to stop the heavy rain that sometimes can hit Singapore at any time of the day.
So is it all nice and shiny and new? Well not completely as the team managers of Juventus and Brazil have complained about the grass that is not or was not completely as it should have been. Too much sand they said and despite a few expensive attempts, the grass just wouldn’t grow as it should. But in May 2015 a new company was appointed and since then a new pitch has been laid. We will see if it now will be good enough or not.
So in case the grass is not really optimal we can only hope that we get no further injuries or new injuries. And speaking about injuries…as mentioned before we have Stoke City as one of the teams participating and well that is not something I look forward too. We cannot avoid them in the PL and certainly at their ground they play a kind of rugby variant, but when they go away from home they do try to play a bit more according to the rules. But I don’t know if Debuchy will agree with that point of view after hem being pushed needlessly in the boarding costing him the rest of his season.
Now according to the fixture list I have seen the first match will be played between Everton and Stoke. So in case Stoke win we just have to lose against the Singapore national XI and avoid playing Stoke more than is needed. To be honest I couldn’t care a lot about the trophy itself and I certainly wouldn’t risk any player for this tournament.
The most important thing about these matches is that they are needed to practise and train for the season. The result itself is not that important for me. Of course I admit I would love to see Arsenal win all their matches but not at the cost of anything. And certainly not at the cost of having to play some thugs from Stoke who think football is a game in which you can apply rugby, judo, karate and wrestling on the pitch. We can hope that the refs in Asia know the difference between those fighting sports and football and act accordingly when it happens.
The presence of Stoke is a downer on my enthusiasm to be honest but one can hope they have their football boots with them and want to play football and not the combination of football, rugby, judo, karate and wrestling.
But first off we have to play the Singapore XI. A team that will also have a few non-Singapore nationalities amongst their players. A Japanese player, an Argentine, a Frenchman and a Brazilian are set to be in their team apart from the other players who are actually from Singapore. Their manager is the former East German Bernd Stange. A manager who played football but didn’t have a big career in doing so but then went on as a manager since he was 22 years old.
Managing clubs like Carl Zeiss Jena, the team of the former East Germany at all levels and then in 1988 went back to club level managerial duties. He then was sacked for one of the most curious reasons while at Hertha Berlin. Because at that moment the rumours in the unified Germany surfaced that in his days of working as the national team manager of East Germany he also had a bit of a side job …working as an informant for the Stasi by informing the Stasi about the players and reporting who broke the laws by making contact with West Germans.
Shortly after that he went abroad and managed a lot of clubs and countries and since 2013 he has been the manager of the Singapore national team.
So a little bit of local and not so local history before the matches take place. Slowly the excitement for this totally unimportant tournament is starting to build with me. I’m hoping for Everton and Arsenal to win their first match and then have a good final between the two teams after that.
Will we see the first glimpse of Cech in the Arsenal goal for this match or will Wenger give the starting place to Szczesny? Or will he rotate the 3 keepers completely? We will know soon now…
The pre-seasons of the past
- 1996: The pre-season games as Rioch was sacked
- 1997: Before the second double
- 1998: Back to sausages after the caviare.
- 1999: Games against Monaco and Saint-Étienne
- 2000: The big transfers but a poor pre-season
- 2001: Campbell arrives, and the prelims to the third double
- 2002: Gilberto’s first game in the tri-team tournament
- 2003: Before being unbeaten
- 2004: The Pre-season in the midst of the 49
- 2005: The end of Highbury and the Arsenal-Chelsea bust up
- 2006: Pre-season and the opening of the Emirates
- 2007: A hectic round of transfers and a full schedule
- 2008: Beating Real Madrid
- The Big 7 clubs, how much they spent and what good is it doing?
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias