Broken leg not enough to stop Crystal Palace fan from welcoming team
A fractured left shin - sustained while playing football - has confined Mohammad Mikail to a wheelchair for the past month.
But neither that nor the absence of one of his favourite Crystal Palace players, Wilfried Zaha, was enough to deter Mikail from turning up at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach to welcome his team to Singapore.
The 24-year-old was among over 20 fans who gave the Eagles a warm welcome on Tuesday (July 12) evening. The Premier League club are in town for the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy 2022, a one-off match on July 15 against fellow top-flight side Liverpool.
Palace's 26-man squad includes former Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne and new signing Malcolm Ebiowei. Upon arrival, the loudest cheers were reserved for star forward Jordan Ayew and manager Patrick Vieira.
While big names Zaha, Cheikhou Kouyate and Christian Benteke were not among the players in Singapore, that did not stop the fans from waiting over two hours to make their presence felt, with the loudest cheers reserved for Ayew and Vieira.
Many supporters were sporting Crystal Palace scarves or clutching jerseys and books of former Arsenal captain Vieira, hoping for an autograph or selfie - which the players and manager obliged to when they arrived at about 7.30pm.
Mikail himself printed a series of photographs of his favourite players and was able to get autographs of and pictures with the likes of goalkeeper Jack Butland, Ayew and Vieira.
The pharmaceutical sciences student, who reached about two hours before the team arrived, was accompanied by his younger sister and partner and was determined to not let his injury limit his chances to be close to the players.
He told The Straits Times: "I wanted to see them as up close as possible and welcome them to Singapore because it's their first time here, so it's very good for us to be there and show them some support.
"I was really happy when I heard they were coming because it's quite rare for them to come. If it weren't for this, the only way for Singaporeans to meet the players is to go to Selhurst Park."
Also in line to catch Vieira in person was Arsenal fan Amanpreet Singh, 26.
The English teacher, who will also be attending the match and Liverpool's open training session on Thursday, said: "When Arsenal last won the league in 2004, he was the mainstay of the team so it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a star like him, someone who made my childhood so special.
"I was very excited and enthused when I heard that Crystal Palace were coming because they're a top-tier Premier League side and they did well last season. It's the lure to watch world-class footballers in action, which we haven't been able to do in the last two years.
"To see them in the flesh playing, it feels different from watching them on live television, it's an experience that can't be described in words."
Arsenal fan Lim Jin Fu, 33, also jumped at the chance to see Vieira in person for the first time.
He said: "It's my first time seeing him in the flesh in Singapore and he's our leader, he's invincible. It's been some time because there was nothing during Covid-19 but it's great that football is back and hopefully, there's more to come."