Football: Chelsea, Bayern embark on a charm offensive in Singapore

From left: Chelsea players Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas, and manager Antonio Conte greet fans at Ritz-Carlton Millenia. Conte spent about five minutes with the fans, signing autographs and posing for photos.
From left: Chelsea players Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas, and manager Antonio Conte greet fans at Ritz-Carlton Millenia. Conte spent about five minutes with the fans, signing autographs and posing for photos.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO
Chelsea fans waiting for their heroes at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel driveway. Many of them waited for at least five hours.
Chelsea fans waiting for their heroes at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel driveway. Many of them waited for at least five hours.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

Blues leave their mark while Bayern boys oblige their patient fans despite a flight delay

Football giants Chelsea and Bayern Munich arrived in Singapore yesterday and immediately turned on the charm for their loyal fans.

Chelsea arrived first at about 7am, having caught an overnight flight from Beijing, where they beat Arsenal 3-0 in a pre-season friendly on Saturday night.

Blues manager Antonio Conte led the outreach efforts when he emerged alone from The Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel, where the team are staying, at 2.15pm.

He then proceeded to sign autographs and pose for wefies, much to the surprise and delight of the 30 or so waiting fans at the hotel driveway, many of whom had been waiting for at least five hours.

The Italian spent about five minutes with the gathered fans, making sure no one was left out.

"He's got so much class. Nobody goes to a foreign country, and then goes out of their way to entertain every one of the 20 to 30 fans here," said student Keshan S., 15.

Added final-year Temasek Polytechnic student Kyle Baptist, 20: "I'm in heaven now. I feel like crying, my arms and legs were trembling. I told him, 'Thank you for saving Chelsea', and he said, 'Thank you'."

Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich taking a wefie with fans outside the Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel upon arriving in Singapore yesterday. Bayern are one of three European football giants playing in this week's International Champions Cup at the National
German giants land in Singapore: Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich taking a wefie with fans outside the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach upon arriving in Singapore yesterday. Bayern are one of three European football giants playing in this week's International Champions Cup at the National Stadium. The German champions will meet English champions Chelsea tomorrow and Inter Milan on Thursday. Chelsea and Inter then wrap up the triangular on Saturday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES FOR ICC
 

The players got into the mix themselves after their first training session at the Singapore American School in the evening.

Fan favourites like goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfielder Willian patiently signed autographs, with defender David Luiz posing for a photo with a fan's baby.

Meanwhile, a flight delay caused Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich - who were travelling from Shanghai following their 0-4 loss to Italian giants AC Milan on Saturday - to arrive at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach at 7pm, more than two hours later than scheduled.

And although some among the 80 or so expectant fans were heard to voice their ire during the wait, all was forgiven when the Bayern players matched their Chelsea counterparts for graciousness.

German World Cup winners Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller gamely moved down the row of waiting fans, as did Polish hotshot Robert Lewandowski.

The biggest cheers were reserved for winger Franck Ribery, however, who obliged fans with such aplomb that he ended up signing student Jonathan Cheong's board of Bayern player cutouts twice.

He then gamely posed for a wefie with the huge group of Bayern fans.

Jonathan, 16, managed to secure the signatures of nine Bayern players on his board, although he missed out on the one he most coveted - James Rodriguez, the loan signing from Real Madrid.

"I'm quite disappointed that James didn't stop, but the rest of the players were amazing," he said.

"You expect them to be fatigued after their flight and the delay but they were still so friendly."

The warmth of the Chelsea and Bayern stars stands in contrast to the flying visit paid by Barcelona star Lionel Messi last month, as he tagged along with the Argentina team who had come to play the Singapore national team.

While hordes of fans had gathered at The Fullerton Hotel to see the five-time world player of the year, who stayed for just a few hours as he did not play the Lions game, he barely bothered to acknowledge them.

Chelsea and Bayern are among three teams slated to play each other here in the International Champions Cup (ICC), an annual club friendly tournament that is into its fifth year.

Italian Serie A side Inter Milan, who arrive early tomorrow morning, complete the trio.

Bayern take on Chelsea in the first match of the ICC at the National Stadium tomorrow. They then meet Inter Milan on Thursday, before the Italian side play Chelsea on Saturday.

This is the first time the ICC has been held in Singapore.

•Additional reporting by Chua Zikai

Correction note:  An earlier version of the caption said the fans were outside Ritz-Carlton Millenia.  This is incorrect. They were outside JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach. We are sorry for the error.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'On a charm offensive'. Print Edition | Subscribe