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Singapore awaits Manchester United and Liverpool
Few in Singapore can be unaware that Manchester United and Liverpool are about to hit town.
For the past six weeks, residents in the island state have been subjected to a barrage of images of the two English clubs' players on the sides of buses and taxis, on banners, in newspapers and on television.
The tactics employed in the publicity blitz for the pre-season visit have largely been obvious but a few are@unusual.
Organisers of the visit by English champions Manchester United have produced a heat-coded ticket for the match against a Singapore Invitation XI on July 24 -- the first time such a ticket has been issued in Asia.
"If you touch the ticket, it changes colour from red to white," said John Merritt, managing director of ProEvents Management Singapore. "It's also plastic-based, so it will never wear out."
Apart from their value as a gimmick, the tickets are meant to be counterfeit-proof commemorative items.
The two games are expected to be sold out as both clubs have announced heavyweight squads for their Singapore tours, keeping promises made to fans when their chief executives announced the matches.
Liverpool will bring their entire first-team squad except the injured Steven Gerrard for their game against a Singapore S-League Select XI on Monday.
England internationals Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Emile Heskey, Czech midfielder Patrik Berger, Finland's Sami Hyppia and new Norwegian signing John Arne Riise are among the players set to take part.
Gerrard will not make the trip after suffering an injury during training last Monday.
Manchester United will also bring a full-strength squad, including England captain David Beckham, United skipper Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Fabien Barthez and new Dutch signing Ruud van Nistelrooy.
But it was not clear whether another new signing, Argentine midfielder Juan Veron, would make the trip because he was still awaiting a work permit from the British authorities.
"We already know if he will be coming to Singapore or not but we're unable to announce it until we get the green light from Manchester," ProEvents' Merritt said.
But organisers of what should prove to be a showcase of the best of English soccer have run into a very local problem.
A Singapore newspaper reported that fans who had bought tickets for the east gallery of the 55,000-seat National Stadium will not have a clear view of the pitch at either match.
A structure and six extra floodlights have been erected in the middle of the 20,000-seat stand for Singapore's National Day celebrations on August 9.
Because the structure takes two months to build, there is not time for it to be removed and put up again.
To get a clear view, the 2,400 or so fans affected would have to move towards the north or south stands, where tickets are cheaper by S$40 to S$60 ($21.85 to $32.80).
The report sparked a scramble by the stadium owners, the Singapore Sports Council, to examine seating arrangements.
"We're trying to work as fast as possible to deal with the situation," said Maureen Goh, the council's director of marketing and communications.
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