The second day started (for me at least) at SMK Seksyen 11 where Nike held an event at that school. Nike arranged for a surprised Arsenal visit to their school after they emerged victorious with the highest number of points scored in the interschool challenge. That challenge is of course the SPARQ challenge where students are tested over a variety of physical circuits.
It was quite a sight to behold. The hall that was used for the event was old and wasn’t air-conditioned. It does reminds me or my own schooling days, not at this particular school though. Students were ushered into the hall just before the arrival of Arsenal with them wondering what is going to happen. So there were many hush chats all around with combined with the bustling fans from all sides creating quite an atmosphere.
Lights were dimmed and the players arrived on stage to rapturous applause from the adoring schoolchildren who couldn’t believe their eyes. Here are the people they see on television, who were thousands of miles away, and yet were right in front of their eyes now. Some, even within touching distance. As the players fielded questions from press/teachers/students, it made for a very enjoyable event.
You could tell that the players have had a really good night’s rest and are up to the PR task today. All 6 of Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo Miyaichi, Andre Santos and Theo Walcott answered questions freely and made jokes. When Miyaichi answered his first question entirely on his own and in English, Szczesny was so happy with it that he gave the Japanese youngster a high five. But the most pleasing part of the event was the look on faces of those students. They were still so excited that when I was leaving the event, they thanked me. Sorry boys, the gratitude extends to Nike, not me.
Next lined up for the day was the Fans Party at the hotel. Supporter Clubs from all over were present; Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, England and also 2 from Norway. All 250 of them packed into the convention halls for almost an hour of Q&A fun and quiz. All of them were very participative in that event and were good fun.
All except for Gervinho who was pensive and spent most of his time looking/writing something down on the table. When Francis Coquelin passed him the microphone, he flatly refused and pushed it away. Yeah, great PR move. Shame that none of the players knew who the club’s all time highest appearance holder is, when it was asked during the quiz. I thought that is just general knowledge. Oh well, at least everyone enjoyed themselves at that event.
You can speak about the lack of big stars for this event, which is true. Then again, a fans party is not going to override the event sponsored by one of Arsenal’s major sponsors. I’ve already mentioned the Nike one earlier but there was another event. All 3 of these were held almost concurrently which meant that the players were divided into their own events. Emirates probably got the pick of the bunch with their events as Alex Song, Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby were all present. No doubt the pressure came down that the players to join in at this Emirates event, has to be of some repute.
This was a coaching clinic for the young kids. From what I saw, perhaps around the range of 5 to 10 year olds. Which is all good in some ways, I guess. Though, this was all done under the blazing hot sun. As a local, I was struggling with yesterday’s heat myself. Can’t imagine how hard it was for the 4 of them yesterday. No surprise to see them with a bottle of water constantly in their hands.
To cap off the second day, Arsenal headed over to Bukit Jalil Stadium for the open training session. Conducted in just over 1.5 hours, Arsene Wenger and his charges led the players through training. Witnessed probably by 3 – 4 thousand fans, it was a number much fewer than last year. This being a working day and a fasting month and that the team were here last year, all combined to that effect.
It was an interesting training to say the least. Mikel Arteta still doing some sit-ups after the training has been completed, when everyone is lying down on the ground gasping for breath and water. You could also see his influence as he’s always talking and advising his team mate over some of the things the do in training. But the most impressive part of the session, definitely goes to Steve Bould. As Kyle Barley says here, his influence for the new season could be big.
Bould was the one in charge of the training yesterday, with Wenger just stepping in whenever necessary. Whenever there is something which the players are not doing right, Bould whistles for the play to stop. In most cases yesterday, it is not so much on how they pass the ball or the dribbles that they make, it is about positioning off the ball. When the whistle gets blown once too often, tactics changed. Cones were introduced at specific areas for the players to know their positions on the pitch. You can see a little of George Graham in Bould, can’t you.
Just that, has got me all excited for the new season. But first, the friendly against Malaysia, tonight.