European soccer’s massive Asian fan base delivered again on Tuesday, as 15,000 spectators took in FC Barcelona’s open training session in Bangkok, Thailand’s Rajamangala National Stadium.
Barça will take on Thailand’s national team on Wednesday, followed by a Malaysian selection on Saturday, before returning to Spain in time for the La Liga season to kick off on Aug. 18. The club makes almost a yearly trek to Asia because of the support it receives there.
This was the first session open to the public since the team arrived to Thailand on Monday. Some of the attendees who attended today’s session bought tickets, while others were invited by the match promoter and the sponsoring businesses. In addition, some of the fans who purchased tickets for tomorrow’s match also got to follow this evening’s session.
Leo Messi, the last player to come out onto the pitch, was the most acclaimed player by the local fans, many of whom were donning the Barça colours.
Meeting areas, which were personalised with images of the players, were set up outside the 50,000-capacity stadium. Inflatable goals, game zones and rest areas brought a bit of colour to a city that’s eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s match. It’s expected that the stadium will be full for the showdown between Thailand and FC Barcelona.
English clubs have also cashed in on the region for a long time. Every other year since 2003, the Premier League Asia Trophy pits three top-flight English clubs in preseason against a host club.
This year, Manchester City defeated Sunderland in Hong Kong to take home the title. Tottenham Hotspur was the other English club involved. In 2011, Chelsea beat out Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Hong Kong First Division champion Kitchee for the trophy.
The competition has moved from Malaysia to Thailand and China before settling in Hong Kong. While many clubs tour the United States to cash in on the support, facilities and ticket money available Stateside, Asia is another lucrative option for preseason tours.