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28 July 2012

High-Flying Ranger – Matchday 1

By Bradley

Queens Park Rangers vs Sabah Selection XI
Kota Kinabalu – Malaysia.
Tuesday 27th July 2012.

More than just a hop, skip, and a jump, South East Asia was a plentiful journey in the making for English Premier League’s, QPR. Covering more miles in a matter of days, than that in a full season on the road in the EPL, this ‘Asian Tour’ was going to not just test the team’s cultural appetite, but more of their stamina and fatigue levels.

Let’s not get carried away, nor kid ourselves, this tour was not just a little excursion for Park-Ji-Sung to show off his regional exoticism, nor was it to test themselves against Malaysia’s best, but a huge factor being; for QPR to delve into the financially sound ‘crAsian’ market that so many clubs are vying to do, yet while many have long conquered the wonders that Asian people bring to their club in bucket loads of ฿ (Thai Baht), ¥ (Japanese Yen), ¥ (Chinese Yuan), and now ₩ (Korean Won) after a fine piece of business by Fernades et al to bring in the Korean wizard, Park-Ji-Sung.

QPR hardly bring the footballing prowess to the table in the form of other footballing heavyweights do, but what any Internationally recognised team do bring, is football mania.

On arrival to Kota Kinabalu, it was more of a relaxed and quiet affair around the city, that was until kick-off. Traveling with #1 sponsors, Airasia, in our own transport, there was the normal rush hour traffic en route to the Likas Stadium, there was an entourage of police drifting on their bikes cutting through the traffic to make way for the QPR team bus. A voice from the back of our bus hailed, “Follow, Follow”. Well, that was the end of the traffic, and we arrived at the stadium with our unofficial police convoy.\

With many preseason tours for EPL clubs, it’s a time to omit big name stars, and utilise their pretty expensive academies. However, give Mark Hughes credit, he opted for a balanced approach. There’s no doubt about it, the star of the tour was always going to be the local hero, Park-Ji-Sung. With fans surrounding the stadium, hanging from gates and clinging to car roof tops, the Sabah faithful gave QPR a very warm welcoming. There was a fantastic atmosphere inside the ground, with shades of red and black dominating the stone terraces, but true to their word, there were blemishes of blue and white hoops piercing through the onslaught of Sabah colours. (Although, I think this was Team Airasia showing their full support for their team).

QPR outplayed their formidable opponents for probably 89 of the 90 minutes. There were signs of brilliance from QPR, demonstrating some neat combinations, however this was a game where the strikers were obviously suffering from a dose of jet-lag, or a few too many bowls of the local specialty, Nasi Lamak. No disrespect to the Sabah team, but it was just as well as it could have clearly been treble the tally they [QPR] managed by full time. The game ended 5-0 with a good display from new boy Samba Diakite, who orchestrated the midfield like a true general commencing battle.

There were heaps of praise for ‘Les Misérable’ himself, Djibril Cisse who showed a lot more than just his usual sulk as he finished with a brace.

Overall, a good performance, however improvements are needed if their to keep to the same score line in their next match-up against Malaysian Superleague Champions and Asian Champions League quarter finalists, Kelanatan Red Warriors. The Manchester United of Asian football.