SINGAPORE — It says a lot about the stature of the Battle of the Reds tournament – billed as a showdown between former players of arch-rivals Liverpool and Manchester United – that the most famous ex-player in Singapore this weekend was not part of the event.
David Beckham was spotted having a meal at Tekka Centre on Saturday (16 November), the same day the tournament was played at the National Stadium.
Yet the ex-Man United star was not involved in the event – he was in town on a business partnership with Marina Bay Sands.
And so it was left to lesser-known former players like Danny Webber, Michael Gray and John Durnin to score the goals in front of just 8,383 fans at the cavernous stadium.
For die-hard fans only
Make no mistake, this is an event for die-hard Liverpool and Man United fans only. And this group of supporters had plenty of opportunities to complete their player autograph and/or photo collections since the ex-players arrived earlier in the week, with the veterans gamely participating in meet-and-greet events and football clinics.
To them, any former player is worth their support, regardless if some of them had barely even featured for the senior teams of either the Reds or the Red Devils.
“If they’re willing to represent my club, I’m willing to cheer for them,” said Jeffrey Chan, 49, who has supported Liverpool for the last 35 years. “I will consider them part of the big Liverpool family. They’ll never walk alone.”
Even so, the likes of Durnin (two League Cup appearances for Liverpool), Webber (three appearances for Man United) and Gray (no senior appearances for Man United) got many fans scratching their heads, wondering where and when they had played for their beloved clubs.
They still cheered them on nonetheless, particularly when they scored. Ironically, the loudest cheers were reserved for the veterans from the Singapore Reds team, especially when captain and former Lions stalwart Aleksandar Duric thundered in two well-taken goals against the Liverpool Reds.
After all, the local names remained familiar, even if many of the Singapore ex-players have been retired for decades.
Struggling to conjure old magic
While there were familiar and respected stars amid the Liverpool and Man United veterans – such as Emile Heskey, Luis Garcia and David James for the Reds, and Dimitar Berbatov, Dwight Yorke and Teddy Sheringham for the Red Devils – they were unsurprisingly way past the peaks of their footballing prowess, and struggled to conjure the old magic with their ageing bodies.
Even though the matches were shortened to 40-minute affairs, there were few highlights. The Liverpool Reds eventually emerged the winners after beating the Manchester Reds 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with the Singapore Reds. Man United fans also went home satisfied after seeing their side beat Singapore Reds 2-0.
Garcia, who scored twice against the Singapore Reds, said after the tournament, “It is always great to be back here. We won the trophy and, most importantly, we enjoyed ourselves.”
Undoubtedly the die-hard fans enjoyed themselves too. And perhaps that was all the event needed to be.
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