Security, heat and lawsuits, the story of European football clubs in Asia

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 00:00 |
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo cools off during his team’s pre-season training in Shanghai. Photo/AFP
Suzhou, Wednesday @PeopleSport11

Huge entourages, heavy security and demands for the sort of police protection normally reserved for heads of state, European football teams jetting across Asia leave nothing to chance, but sometimes run into problems anyway.

The money-spinning pre-season tours are a far cry from 30 years ago, when the likes of Manchester United would play friendlies against local sides, or at most hop over to Ireland.

United, now a global brand, sent staff to Shanghai several times ahead of last week’s friendly against Tottenham to ensure that the Hongkou Stadium pitch was up to scratch.

Paris Saint-Germain dispatched a chef ahead of the team’s arrival in each location in Asia to check that the food adheres to the players’ strict pre-season diets.

Security, which usually means keeping away overzealous fans, has been a primary concern for the clubs fanning out across Asia last month.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola was accompanied by a beefy member of security as he made the short walk to the team coach inside the bowels of Nanjing Olympic Stadium. Autograph and selfie-hunters were left empty-handed.

When it comes to accommodation for City, United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and the rest, it is only the best.

Guardiola and his expensively assembled squad, plus dozens of club staff, took over the exclusive, 130-room Banyan Tree hotel in Shanghai.

Rooms at the self-styled “urban retreat in the city’s most scenic location” start at nearly 2,000 yuan (Sh30,000) a night.

PSG brought a heaving delegation of 120 people for their trip to Shenzhen, Macau and Suzhou, among them eight security personnel with walkie-talkies and at least two cooks in club-crested chef uniforms.

While in the Chinese city of Suzhou for Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Sydney FC, PSG pitched up at the deluxe Fairmont Yangcheng Lake hotel.

However, the French champions’ midfielder Julian Draxler said that being holed up in a hotel, no matter how swanky, could be “quite boring”.

Throw in training in fierce heat, and media and commercial duties, and Draxler said it was no holiday.

The visits, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Australia were also on some itineraries, are ultimately about creating profits and goodwill, but not every visit has ended well.

According to South Korean media, demands from Juventus to have a police escort, normally reserved for visiting heads of state, were refused.                    -AFP

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