Man City faithful take time off work to welcome football royalty

2013-07-12 00:00

IT was hard to tell if there were more fans or members of the media at King Shaka International to welcome British football club Manchester City to South Africa yesterday.

The English giants are in the country to play two pre-season friendlies, against SuperSport United in Pretoria on Sunday and AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Thursday.

But while the welcome party yesterday was a fraction of the size of the mob that swamped Manchester United at the same airport lounge a year ago, there were still a couple of die-hard fans who took some time away from the office to welcome their heroes.

Philip Garner (49), who has been living in Durban for 27 years, is from Manchester.

“My boss understands my allegiance to this football club, so he understood that I needed to be here for this,” he said, clad in his City jersey.

Justin King (38) was a little more evasive about his tactics to get out of the office.

“I’ve taken an early lunch to be here,” he said at just after 11 am.

“Its good to see all the loyalty around here,” he added sarcastically, referring to the small crowd that had gathered.

There were also a few youngsters who, thanks to school holidays, were able to catch a glimpse of global stars such as captain Vincent Kompany, Ivorian Yaya Toure, Joe Hart, Samir Nasri, Gareth Barry and James Milner.

“It’s all very exciting. I never thought I’d get to see them in person,” said 15-year-old Toni Savannah.

City will leave for Pretoria tomorrow and return to their camp in Durban the following day to prepare for the AmaZulu match, which will be played on former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday, July 18.

New team coach Manuel Pellegrini said he was excited to be a part of Madiba’s birthday celebrations.

“For us it is a massive honour to be a part of what is a very special day for South Africa,” he said.

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