TOUR TICKET DETAILS
IN their bid for a return to former glories, Liverpool will break new ground this summer.
The Reds venture into the unknown next month as part of their pre-season tour of the Far East when playing on mainland China and in Malaysia for the first time.
However they are sure to be afforded a warm welcome, not just by the expected searing 33 degree temperatures, but from Liverpool’s estimated 60 million Chinese fans.
Kenny Dalglish’s men will visit the south China Sea province of Guangdong and will play their first history making match against Guangdong Sunray Cave on July 13 in capital city of Guangzhou.
From there, the tour will move on to Kuala Lumpur where Liverpool face a Malaysia XI on July 16 before flying back to Merseyside.
The Korean leg of the tour, scheduled for the following week, has since been cancelled.
Asia remains increasingly familiar territory for the club with trips Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore having taken place every other year since 2001. And with Liverpool’s new club sponsors Standard Chartered – who started a four year deal worth £80 million last July – a major player in the Asian markets and backing the tour, forging new ground, on and off the pitch, in China’s richest province remains vital to Liverpool’s commercial expansion.
Guangzhou – the team’s base whilst in China and home to six million people – is close to the financial centre of Shenzhen and sits on the Pearl River Delta.
The province underwent an economic surge during the 1990s and holds the country’s largest import and export fair; perhaps a fitting venue in a summer when Liverpool look certain to be busy in the transfer market.
“I’m looking forward to taking the team to Asia,” said Dalglish.
“It is great that we can give our supporters in China and Malaysia the chance to watch the team play. Our last tour of Asia in 2009 was a great success and we’re delighted to be returning this summer.”
The Tianhe Stadium, where Liverpool face Sunray Cave next month, is sure to reach its 60,000 capacity when the Reds kick-off at 8pm local time.
Although the ground of current Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou Yiyao, the Reds will face Sunray Cave who play in the Chinese League One, the second tier of their national league system.
Jamie Carragher is relishing the opportunity to play in front of the club’s Far East supporters and will have to shackle Sunray’s star player – the Brazilian forward Ronny.
”I have never been to China before and I don’t think many of the players have either,” Carragher said.
”We are all really looking forward to it. I am sure it will be a great tour because we have a lot of fans over there and it will be great for us to see them and for them to see us play and train.”
The development of football in China remains a work in progress, trailing behind the national sport of basketball and their hero Yao Ming, the 7’6” NBA player.
The country was the last of the major Far East to introduce a professional football league but a significant leap forward came when the national team qualified for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.
And though their tournament ended pointless and without a goal scored, FIFA’s 2009 Development Award was seen as a move forward for football in China.
Liverpool’s presence in the country can only help.
The second leg of the tour sees Dalglish’s men travel into Malaysia’s vibrant capital of Kuala Lumpur with their stay culminating in a game at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, 5.45pm local time.
Kuala Lumpur is no stranger to hosting major sports stars from overseas following the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Malaysian Grand Prix in Formula One.
The capital, and city with the largest population, Kuala Lumpur is the heartbeat of the country and yet another first for Liverpool, whose fan base in the country has been labelled as “massive”.
Reds legends Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman recently held a coaching event in the country, such is the esteem the club is held in on those shores.
Managing Director Ian Ayre said: The game in Malaysia will be an important part of our preparations for the 2011/12 campaign and it’s a chance for all our fans in Malaysia to get up close to their heroes.”