Juventus mean business even in training
SINGAPORE SELECTION v JUVENTUS
(Tonight, 6pm, StarHubTV Ch 112, 205 & 76.25MHz)
The pitch was far from perfect, but the stars of Juventus weren't bothered.
It was business as usual for the Serie A champions last night, as they went through their paces ahead of tonight's historic first football match at the new National Stadium.
Close to 1,000 fans turned up to watch Gianluigi Buffon and Co go through a 90-minute "Open" session under the watchful eyes of new coach Massimiliano Allegri, the Italian giants' final tune-up before taking on a Singapore Selection led by national coach Bernd Stange.
While the hybrid pitch had yet to mature, the Bianconeri went through their routine like clockwork.
And the feisty nature of their session might have even surprised some.
Lunging tackles flew in thick and fast as players hardly pulled out of 50-50 challenges.
The fans certainly liked what they saw.
They were given a preview of tonight's match when they saw midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo effortlessly pull the strings from the centre of the pitch, as two teams tussled to keep possession of the ball.
They whooped in delight each time Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who scored a hat-trick when Juventus thrashed an Indonesian All-Star team 8-1 last Wednesday, powered a trademark header into goal.
And they sang throughout the session.
The players must have enjoyed what they saw and heard as well.
Buffon took time out from stopping shots between the goalposts to perform a little jig along with one of the fans' chants.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday, saluted the fans who roared "Uno Grande Chiellini" (The Big One Chiellini).
And star midfielder Arturo Vidal, who has been subject of transfer speculation linking him to Louis van Gaal's revolution at Manchester United, raised his hand in acknowledgement when the supporters chanted his name to the Popeye theme.
But, the Chilean might not feature tonight.
Vidal underwent surgery on his right knee in May before returning to help his country reach the last 16 in Brazil, and is thought to be some way from full fitness.
While he took part in the first half of Juventus' training session yesterday, he left the pitch and sat out the second.
Not that it bothered some fans.
Indonesian Juventus supporter Johan Gomes, who travelled with 30 other Bianconeri-mad fans to watch the team in Singapore, said: "We just love them.
"For years, we've only managed to see them on television.
"Now, being here and watching them train in the flesh, it's like a dream come true."
Expect a roar, and a sweet deal
The new National Stadium will host its first football match tonight, and the players from the Singapore Selection and Juventus teams may well hear nearly 30,000 fans raise a unique roar at the venue.
And a huge swathe of fans will also receive a sweet deal for the glamour international friendly between Brazil and Japan at the 55,000-capacity stadium in October.
Over the last few days, some fans who had already purchased tickets for tonight's match expressed their unhappiness over the 100PLUS promotion launched earlier this week.
The promotion offered a pair of tickets for just an $18 purchase of 100PLUS or other F&N brands.
Organisers World Sport Group (WSG) have stepped forward with a gesture of goodwill ahead of football's debut at the Singapore Sports Hub.
"We understand that fans who already purchased tickets are disappointed but that was never our intention," said WSG chief executive, Andrew Georgiou yesterday.
"As a gesture of goodwill, all those who have purchased tickets through Sports Hub Tix should keep their tickets, and they will be offered a special promotion for the Brazil-Japan international on Oct 14."
Ticketing details of Dunga's Brazil and Asia's No. 1 side Japan at the National Stadium will be released later.
Details of WSG's promotion will be announced after tonight's match, and will also apply to fans who bought their tickets from Sports Hub Tix today.
As of yesterday, some 25,000 tickets for tonight's game have been sold, with 17,500 purchased through Sports Hub Tix, and the rest through third party companies and sponsors.
100PLUS is an official sponsor of the Sports Hub, and lend its name to the walkway - the 100PLUS Promenade - that connects the facilities at the $1.33-billion hub.
The New Paper understands that 100PLUS has 3,000 tickets for their own promotion of tonight's game.
"100Plus is the official sponsor of the match and an official partner of Singapore Sports Hub," explained Georgiou. "They acquired a limited number of tickets and designed a promotion for the opening match to plug the first football game and whip up excitement for the event."
- SHAMIR OSMAN