Family spur fan to switch allegiance, now he converts friend

Stoke City fan Mann Mohamed (right) and his young friend Faiz Abdullah share the similarity of being one of the few local supporters of the mid-table English football club.
Stoke City fan Mann Mohamed (right) and his young friend Faiz Abdullah share the similarity of being one of the few local supporters of the mid-table English football club.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Part Two of The Straits Times' Barclays Asia Trophy countdown featuring fans gearing up to welcome their football heroes

As a Tottenham Hotspur fan for over 30 years, one would not expect Mann Mohamed to support any other English team.

Yet, through the influence of relatives living in the West Midlands in England, the 52-year-old Singaporean has been an ardent Stoke City fan for the past five years now.

"I have family living in Stoke (his wife's aunt and her family). They support their hometown club very passionately, and over time I got into the same spirit to support Stoke with them," he explained.

Even though he missed watching Stoke in action during his visit last March as they played away from home, the affection the locals have for their team impressed him.

"The week I was there, the whole town was covered in red and white and there was a carnival to commemorate the game!" he said.

"I was impressed by how football is not like a pastime to them, but more like a lifestyle."

The red-and-white Stoke jersey he wears during the interview is another cherished prize attained from that unforgettable trip to Stoke-on-Trent.

"My nephew is a die-hard Stoke fan. Somehow after my tour of the Britannia, through his contacts he managed to get the club to give me a jersey, a club scarf and a match booklet signed by the Stoke players," said Mohamed, whose favourite Stoke player is skilful forward Bojan Krkic. "The booklet is one of my most treasured possessions."

Just as the Stoke "lifestyle" rubbed off on him, he also passed on his passion for the mid-table English club to a friend.

Faiz Abdullah is a supporter of European heavyweights Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

But the 24-year-old has been following the Potters for the past three years now, after regular visits to Mohamed's household.

"I didn't have a team I supported in the Premier League up till Stoke," he said. "But whenever I visited (Mohamed), it would be a Stoke match on TV and he would be telling me to watch it with him, and I was hooked."

Both of them will have a chance to display their colours proudly with fellow Stoke fans from around the world come July 15, when Stoke City make their first appearance in Singapore. They will play Everton in the Barclays Asia Trophy.

"We have mostly been supporting Stoke by ourselves here at home, but definitely we will look forward to making new friends who support the team," said Mohamed.

Both hope their team will pick up where they left off last season, when Stoke ended their campaign by thumping Liverpool 6-1.

Describing it as his favourite Stoke memory so far, Mohamed said: "It was double the joy for me that weekend as Stoke won 6-1 and Spurs also jumped to fifth place over Liverpool as a result!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Family spur fan to switch allegiance, now he converts friend'. Print Edition | Subscribe