Football greats from Man Utd, Liverpool to descend on Sabah

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew (middle, holding red jersey) with football legends Ronny Johnsen (to Liew’s right), John Arne Riise (second right from Liew), Sabah Youth and Sports Minister Ginger Phoong and other football fans in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Come November, the city will be a sea of red as football legends from England’s Manchester United and Liverpool clubs gather for the first time ever in Sabah for a host of events including charity matches and an exhibition game.

“The Battle of the Reds” will see 16 players from each side taking the other on at the Likas Stadium here on Nov 20.

They include former Liverpool players Jason McAteer, Steve McManaman, Emile Heskey and John Arne Riise, who will play under the Liverpool Reds.

Appearing for the Manchester Reds will be Ronny Johnsen, Teddy Sheringham, Mikael Silvestre and Keith Gillispie.

The match is expected to be the highlight of their five-day stay in the state capital.

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew, who admitted she is not a football fan, said she was initially in the dark when the organisers pitched the event to her.

“I asked them, ‘Are they famous?’ They looked at me, stumped, and explained who they were.

Ronny Johnsen (left) and John Arne Riise in Kota Kinabalu for the launch of ‘The Battle of the Reds’.

“I was immediately excited to know about the event, which is what I have always wanted to do – sports tourism,” Liew, who is also the state tourism, culture and environment minister, said when announcing the event here yesterday.

“Sports tourism in Sabah has not been fully explored yet, so the potential is definitely great.”

She was accompanied by Johnson and Riise, the former of whom is in Sabah for the second time. Riise, meanwhile, is visiting Sabah for the first time.

Johnson said he was lucky to be back in Sabah.

“It’s nice to be here and give something back to the fans here. I’m really looking forward to bringing my team here,” he added.

Riise, meanwhile, said he was happy to be in Kota Kinabalu.

“I was so tired when I arrived, and I forgot about how good the fans are here. (Then) the doors opened and I saw so many fans, and it put a smile on my face,” he said.