By TRISTAN TOH
Football fans got up close and personal with the English Premier League trophy recently at the Malaysian leg of the Manchester United Champ19ns Trophy Tour.
Held at the One World Hotel, Selangor, some 160 Red Devils – mostly clad in their favourite team’s colours – gave up their Saturday morning sleep-in for the opportunity to witness legends Ronny Johnsen and Gary Pallister live in person alongside the English Premier League trophy.
The event attracted young and old alike, all common in their love for the 19-time Premier League champions, none more so than sisters Naveeta, Bhaveeta and Karishma Kaur, who travelled all the way from Penang.
“It runs in the family,” said eldest sister Naveeta, 20. “Our dad was the biggest influence, sitting us down with him for every match since we were kids. From there, he further stoked our passion by buying us club collectibles and taking us to the mamak for important games.”
This story was prevalent among the diehard set, many of whom brought their children along. One such fan was Zahanee Zakaria, who has inculcated a love for the beautiful game in his son from birth. Between the two of them, they have visited Old Trafford four times.
Ronny and Gary were probed by the emcee for their favourite thing about the country, their favourite local food and their predictions for the match against Everton the next day.
“Malaysia is such a great place to visit,” said Pallister. “The people here are always so friendly and welcoming, and the food is superb.”
Johnsen concurred, sharing fond memories of his visit last year when he participated in the Masters Football tournament.
This was followed by a lively exchange between the fans and the legends after the microphone was opened to the floor for a question-and-answer session. The audience wasted no time in firing away their most burning questions, which the former centre-backs gracefully accommodated.
The crowd’s favourite moment however, would have to be the photo and autograph session. There was a perpetually long queue as visitors waited patiently to walk away with pictures taken and memorabilia signed by Pallister and Johnsen.
Lest you think United fans are famous only for their dedication to the club, think again. They also showed their generous side as they raised RM15,400 for the Taman Megah Handicapped and Disabled Children’s Home in Selangor at the charity auction.
“Malaysia is home to 4.5 million Manchester United fans,” commented David Ng, managing director of DHL Express Malaysia, who presented the event. “We are glad to play a part in bringing this special moment to our loyal customers and staff here in Kuala Lumpur.”
In addition to the meet-and-greet session, fans turned up in droves for the live viewing party at Sunway Lagoon Amphitheatre in Subang Jaya the following night.
Malaysia is one of the Champ19ns Trophy Tour’s 27 stops across the world, with the trophy next visiting Singapore, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Holland. At the end of the tour, it will have covered more than 77,248km.