Sadio Mane had stepped into the lobby of Swissotel The Stamford on Tuesday afternoon with airpods in his ears, but the Liverpool star was not deaf to the adulation of the many Liverpool fans present.
To the tune of The Archies’ Sugar Sugar, the 80-strong crowd heartily serenaded their favourite footballer, singing “Sadio, Oh Mane Mane!” as the Senegal forward arrived for his first visit to Singapore.
Some of the fans had made a beeline for the hotel as early as 10am to catch a glimpse of the 27-year-old, who is here with his national team. The Lions of Teranga are here as part of the Brazil Global Tour that sees the Selecao play Senegal on Thursday and Nigeria on Sunday at the National Stadium.
Looking somewhat bemused by the strong support, Mane did his best to entertain as many autograph and wefie requests as possible on both sides of the barricades, which had been set up to allow the team to pass through.
Clad in a cap bearing his SM10 initials, Senegal team jacket, white polo-tee and track pants, and carrying a white backpack, there were a couple of times when he looked like he was about to scoot off, only to stop and sign more memorabilia and accede to more photo requests.
Sylvester Ng could not help himself as he jumped and whooped in delight after securing a wefie and a signature on a Liverpool FC magazine featuring the No. 10.
The 18-year-old student, who had staked out the hotel since 1pm, told The Straits Times: “Shiok ah! I have supported Liverpool since I was in Primary 5, and Sadio Mane ever since he joined from Southampton in 2016, so you can say he is my childhood hero. I feel so, so lucky.”
C.T. Lim, a 45-year-old businessman, also took time off work to take his nine-year-old son Jia Le, who was clad in a Liverpool jersey, to the hotel. They were rewarded when Mane signed on their Champions of Europe book.
He said: “We like Mane not only because is he a good player, but he is also a kind-hearted person who gives back to society. We will also be supporting him and the other Liverpool players in the Brazil team from the front row on Thursday.”
In contrast to the Brazil team, who had arrived in batches, the 23-man Senegal team and their backroom staff arrived together at Changi Airport at 3.22pm following a 12-hour flight from Paris, where they had assembled.
Playing for the first time in Singapore, they will be hoping that the Republic will be where their fortunes turn around after suffering wretched luck in recent major tournaments.
At last year’s World Cup, they finished with the same points, goals scored and conceded as Japan, whom they had drawn 2-2 with in Group H. But with both teams placed behind group winners Colombia, the Africans became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated by the fair play criteria as they had accumulated more bookings than the Samurai Blue.
Then, in July’s African Cup of Nations, Aliou Cisse’s men strode into the final, which they dominated, only to lose 1-0 to Algeria, who made their one shot at goal count.
Senegalese YouTuber Stan Diop, who runs the Les Outsiderz channel which covers the team, told ST: “Of course, when you lose under such circumstances, it is hurtful, but the mood is generally good within the team.
“We have the same coach since 2015 and the team have been largely successful. There is a good hype around the team and I think we can match the Brazilians.
“People see the Brazil superstars, but when we look at our players, we have Mane, who has played with and earned the respect of Brazilians like Roberto Firminho and Fabinho, one of the best defenders in Kalidou Koulibaly, and the new PSG fan favourite Idrissa Gueye.
“I was surprised to see fans stopping our goalkeeper coach Tony Sylva, which shows how knowledgeable some of them are here. Maybe not many people know about Senegal, so it would be nice to show to the world outside Africa what Senegal are about through these friendlies.”
Tickets for both games are still available at www.sportshubtix.sg, Singapore Indoor Stadium box office, all SingPost outlets, The Star Performing Arts Centre box office and Scotts Square concierge desk or ring 3158-7888.