Dream comes true for Carlsberg contest winner
Dream come true for TNP-Carlsberg contest winner and buddy in Lyon
REPORTING FROM LYON
Less than 24 hours earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had scored from the very same spot that Desmond Ng and Ronald Koh were standing on.
That opening goal against Wales set Portugal on their way to the final of Euro 2016 against Germany.
Singaporeans Ng and Koh had watched the match from the stands at the Stade de Lyon on Thursday morning (Singapore time).
The day after, they were decked out in full kit, on the same turf and taking on the likes of Claude Makelele, Peter Schmeichel, David James, Marcel Desailly, Christian Karembeu and Steve McManaman.
Ng and Koh were at the Play on Pitch final event organised by Carlsberg, with the aim of creating the football superstar treatment for ordinary folks like them.
Ng, who had won the contest which Carlsberg ran in The New Paper in May and subsequently picked Koh to go with him on this trip, was totally blown away.
Standing at the centre of attention in the 59,000-seater stadium was something beyond the 27-year-old trainee lawyer's wildest dreams.
"This was awesome. It was a great feeling," Ng told The New Paper.
"We played football with so many football stars, and we are talking about really top players.
"I guess 'beyond my wildest dreams' would be an apt way to describe this."
Carlsberg, the official beer of UEFA EURO 2016, spared no effort in delivering the full works.
Ng and Koh arrived in a team coach, changed in the same locker rooms which Ronaldo and Co. used, and then made their grand entrance.
As they ran out of the players' tunnel, the stadium announcer read out their names and the giant screen flashed their half-body shots, while photographers snapped away.
No wonder Koh found it all a bit surreal.
"Coming to this stadium and playing with all these legends, it was something I really never thought I would do," the 27-year-old IT consultant told TNP.
"This is really an unbelievable experience. The memory of that semi-final match (between Portugal and Wales) is still fresh, and it took place here yesterday.
"We are grateful to Carlsberg for giving us the chance to taste this great atmosphere."
Their VIP entrance to the Stade de Lyon was only the beginning in their day in the life of a football star.
They would spend the entire afternoon taking on former footballers in numerous stations set up on the pitch.
Ng was especially chuffed at beating former Liverpool and England goalkeeper James from the penalty spot.
He said: "Scoring a penalty against James, well, it has to be the highlight of my trip.
"And I did it on my first try.
"He had no chance. It was nicely tucked into the bottom corner of the net."
Koh was not to be outdone.
The former captain of the Temasek Junior College team was the only one from his team, who included several other contest winners from Singapore, to succeed in the crossbar challenge.
And beating ex-England and Real Madrid midfielder McManaman in the one-on-one challenge is a tale he would surely tell his grandchildren in the future.
He won 3-2, after which he earned praise from McManaman for some of his neat tricks.
It was, however, off the pitch that he collected his most memorable moment.
He said: "I had a Carlsberg with him. I even clinked glasses with him.
"I am a Manchester United supporter, but he is my favourite player.
"I watched him on TV all the time when I was growing up.
"I find him a fatherly figure, very friendly and approachable."
Ng couldn't express his gratitude enough.
What started as a hopeful attempt to win a newspaper contest ended with him living a boyhood dream.
He said: "This was no ordinary trip. This was an adventure that money can't buy.
"The lengths to which Carlsberg went to pull this off are unbelievable.
"Playing on the same field a day after a European Championship semi-final, playing football with legends such as Makelele and Desailly, nothing can beat this."
This was no ordinary trip. This was an adventure that money can’t buy. The lengths to which Carlsberg went to pull this off are unbelievable.
— Carlsberg Play on Pitch contest winner Desmond Ng