Football: PSG squad arrive for ICC in Singapore but star names absent

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon takes a photo with a Hong Kong fan at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, on July 25, 2018.
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon takes a photo with a Hong Kong fan at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, on July 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Veratti signing autographs for fans at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, on July 25, 2018.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Veratti signing autographs for fans at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, on July 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - They were mostly not Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) fans, but they waited anyway, in anticipation of two players especially, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two footballers who can walk into any all-star XI right now.

But on Wednesday (July 25) morning at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, it was more a case of building an all-star XI of PSG players who did not make their way to Singapore for the 2018 International Champions Cup (ICC).

About 40 fans had their eyes fixated on the bus that rolled into the hotel front, scanning the 24-man PSG squad as they disembarked.

There were loud cheers for Italian duo Gianluigi Buffon and Marco Veratti in particular, who took time to pose for pictures and sign autographs for fans.

But the disappointment was almost palpable towards the French champions' lack of star power in Singapore.

There is to be no Brazilian superstar Neymar and World Cup winner, Mbappe.

Also conspicuous by their absence on arrival were other players who featured in the World Cup and have therefore been given an extended break. They include club captain Thiago Silva, fellow Brazilian defender Marquinhos, Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani, Argentinian wing wizard Angel Di Maria and Belgium's Thomas Meunier.

Some sighed in disappointment and one fan who had brought along a PSG kit with Mbappe's name, quietly folded the shirt and put it back into his bag.

There would be no autographs from the French teenager to take home today.

PSG had also organised for about 40 kids for a meet-and-greet at the hotel and staff were seen briefing the children before the players' arrival, on the fact that the likes of Neymar and Mbappe will not be present.

Needless to say, there were audible groans.

Nicholas Tan, 24, a banking and finance student at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) said that he got up earlier than usual to get a good waiting spot at the hotel.

He had been eager to catch a glimpse of Mbappe, especially after the 19-year-old's exploits at the World Cup.

"I hadn't seen the news of PSG's squad last night as I had already gone to sleep so that I could be here early today," said Tan.

"I had been very excited to see Mbappe and Neymar up close here even though I got the tickets to see them at the matches. But it looks like I won't see them at all.

"I can understand if one or two players don't turn up, but this is almost all of the main starting eleven. I'm very disappointed."

Lam Kong, 16, travelled to Singapore from Hong Kong to watch the ICC and was similarly downcast at the no-show of the star names.

"I do understand that it is a World Cup year and the players may be given a longer break but I was still praying and hoping," said Kong, a PSG fan for the last three years.

At least one fan was upbeat.

Frenchman Guillaume Elavard, 32, said that a chance to see youth players of PSG was good enough for him and that he was still looking forward to the matches in the days ahead.

Argentinian midfielder Giovani Lo Celso, 22, and 18-year-old Timothy Weah, the son of 1995 Ballon d'Or winner George are part of the squad here.

The business development manager at Sirva said: "I think the squad is still decent and you have players who are known worldwide like Buffon. I can't complain. I'm happy that I'll be getting to see first-hand, the future of PSG.

"Players like Weah and Lo Celso are the ones you are going to see more of going forward so I'm satisfied. In fact, I'm lucky because you don't normally see these players feature much during the regular season."

PSG will face Arsenal at the National Stadium on Saturday (July 28) before squaring off against Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid next Monday (July 30).