Il Principino scores in Juventus’ first home game of the season. Ruler of his land. Ruler of my heart.
The thing with fangirling is that it comes with a lot of luck.
I am now able to articulate this after a whirlwind weekend in Singapore that started out with a simple musing: Following the 2014 World Cup, I may never see Gigi Buffon or Andrea Pirlo at the top level soon.
Which was followed by: It would also be nice to see Claudio Marchisio in person too. Not just in those timeless Dolce & Gabbana ads (and by timeless, I mean in skivvies).
So began the formulation of the best laid plans that eventually were replaced by even better unplanned moments. All because of luck.
Now I learned about luck a decade or so ago—and how it plays a huge part in getting you that temporary high (or lingering, as the case may be). You can wait in line at the hotel lobby for hours or drive yourself to madness over the thought of jumping in the hotel fountain if it means escaping from the clutches of the security cordon. And that one fleeting glimpse of that celebrity you’ve been waiting for? Enough to last your happy bubble for weeks.
As for us, we started riding our luck by winning passes to Juventus’ training session—which led to a mad scramble to rebook flights and to find a place to stay for a night in Singapore earlier than planned—never mind if there was not enough passes.
Luck, sometimes, treats you too well, when it just pays to know the people who can help sort out the situation (thank you, thank you, thank you to you—you know who you are).
Cue to Friday, August 15, at 5 p.m., we took our places in a relatively short line at Gate 3 of Singapore’s National Stadium, and 30 minutes later, we subtly dashed to the front row of seats for training.
Now who would have thought training could be so… glorious? Perhaps that is the case for fans in Asia, where tours to this part of the world come once or twice in a lifetime.
The guys went through a series of passing and shooting drills. When Andrea Pirlo stepped onto the pitch, it was as if the clouds parted, and a light from the heavens shone onto Jesus in the midfield. And boy, oh boy, what a treat it was to see him in action, with every pass made with stunning precision and accuracy.
Gigi Buffon regaled the crowd by squatting to the beat of chants to his name. Behind us, a guy kept screaming, “Patrick!” to Patrice Evra, which made us snicker. Sebastian Giovinco was quite a firecracker—as if the little guy had more than everybody else’s energy packed in his two little legs.
And of course, there’s Claudio Marchisio.
There’s something incredibly surreal about seeing your football crushes in person. It’s as if you are in a strange out-of-body experience thinking, “I just see this man on television and my laptop screen, on livestreaming and on Tumblr and Instagram, and now, he’s just several meters in front of me!”
He will never have the most refined of movements, but really, what a beautiful man. Claudio wasn’t too shabby as well, banging in a couple of goals in front of us during the drills.
When the guys finished their drills and took a quick water break, they started walking to where the fans were, and even if you tried acting normal, composure was thrown out of the window. After all, it seemed like a hundred guys behind us were squishing us against the barriers, also wanting to get their shirts signed.
On our area, Carlos Teves (haha), Marco Motta, (what a beard) Emil Audero (so cute), and El Rey Leon himself Fernando Llorente signed shirts and posed for a few photos. Fernando was visibly tired and seemingly annoyed, but to his credit, he finished the entire line of fans on our side.
Day 1 was really a day of luck, and I didn’t believe it could get any better with Day 2.
The following morning, after a hearty lunch at Nando’s, we headed to the Fullerton Hotel where there was a small group of fans waiting at the basement lobby. We managed to see some of the guys as they went to what we thought was a press conference (Why do I never think of asking for a media pass? Why?).
A kid screamed, “I LOVE YOU JESUS!” when Pirlo walked by. That got us all cracking up.
An hour before the gates at the National Stadium were about to open, the guys came down once again for what we thought was a short team meeting, before heading back up to their rooms. Evra was kind enough to tell the fans, “We’ll be back.” By then, I thought they were just going to get their stuff then head down to the bus and go to the stadium.
True enough, that’s what happened about 10 minutes later when the guys started filing out (Marco Storari always came out first).
I think my brain just shut when Claudio emerged from the elevator. We were trying to give him his gift (“Claudio! Gift for you! For you!” because he almost signed it, to which he replied, “For me? Thank you!”) and got some selfies—and for those who were wondering, no, he didn’t smell of anything.
We ran back up to where the bus was parked and tried to look for where Claudio was sitting on the bus. He was on the side farther from where the fans stood and was sitting on his seat with a far away look, when I decided to wave at him like an idiot. He waved back.
Claudio Marchisio. Waving back. At me. Stop the presses. This is not real life.
I tried to mime to him that the gift he got was from us, and he kept making a forward circular motion with his hand and pointed index finger—which could mean any one of these three things: 1) We are about to leave; 2) The wheels on the bus go round and round; or 3) Carry on, you are amusing me.
Claudio Marchisio and I were communicating. Never mind if we couldn’t understand each other. We were com-mu-ni-ca-ting.
We went back to where the other players were emerging, and when Llorente came up, we were the only ones screaming in Spanish, “Fernando, te quiero mucho! El Rey Leon!” He winked and grinned broadly.
Someone pinch me. This is all happening.
We went back to where Claudio was seated and held up a sign that said, “Claudio, Manila gift from us!” Claudio he responded by holding it up and flashing a thumbs-up sign. Then Llorente sat next to him and waved back at us.
If I could frame this moment and put it up on the wall, I would.
By then, the match between Juventus and Singapore would be icing on the cake. Juventus led 2-0 at the half, thanks to a free kick and a penalty kick from Pirlo. What a magician.
I thought Singapore managed to hold on quite well in the first half, but the Italian champions just dismantled them in the second half, with goals from Paul Pogba, Sebastian Giovinco (who was intently picking his nose while aboard the team bus—cheers to Booger Power then), and Kwadwo Asamoah.
The spanking new National Stadium did not disappoint. Even when the crowd was just at half-capacity, the support for both Juventus and the Singapore squad was unwavering. Oh, and Pirlo was named Man of the Match.
I write this nearly a week after everything that was. My Claudio Marchisio jersey remains unwashed and hanging at the edge of my bed. I’ll get around to washing it this weekend. For now, it’s just there to remind me of what an awesome time we had in Singapore—all because of Juventus and a whole lot of good luck.