The 2011 UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour presented by Heineken is under way in Asia – after making Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur, the first of eight scheduled stops over the next two months.
This latest edition of the trophy tour was launched from UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, last week before reaching its first destination on 22 and 23 February. Kuala Lumpur got its first glimpse of European club football's most coveted piece of silverware during a press conference on Tuesday which heralded the official opening of the tour.
The star of the press conference was Gianfranco Zola, the UEFA Champions League Ambassador for this leg of the tour. Zola presented the trophy in front of more than 90 guests, including various media representatives and journalists. The media representatives were joined by senior representatives of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Heineken special guests.
The press conference was staged amid an authentic trophy tour atmosphere, with guests enjoying a preview of what lies in store for the many Malaysian, Thai, South Korean and Chinese football fans who will be coming to see the UEFA Champions League Trophy for themselves.
As well as the glittering prize itself, the tour houses a UEFA Champions League exhibition that features stands dedicated to unique tournament memorabilia as well as historical images and videos relating the competition's long history, which dates back to 1955. Fans will be able to learn more about the Asian players who have graced the UEFA Champions League, about the tournament's leading clubs and about previous finals, among many other items of interest.
Given the Asian setting, one appropriate exhibit was a full and signed Manchester United FC kit worn by Park Ji-Sung, the Old Trafford team's Korea Republic midfielder.
As a prelude to the interaction that takes place between trophy tour ambassadors and visitors, Zola – the former Italy, Chelsea FC, SSC Napoli and Parma FC forward – was also available for a meet-and-greet session with Malaysian fans, signing autographs and having his picture taken with dozens of football lovers.
Zola said of his participation: "For me personally, it's a great honour. I never won this competition, I just played in it a couple of times, on two different occasions. But I know how important, how prestigious this competition is, all over the world. And for me to be here in Asia, promoting it, it's a great pleasure and an honour."
The trophy tour village will open its doors to much greater numbers of local football supporters during public visiting days at the Kuala Lumpur venue on 26 and 27 February. The trophy is remaining in the Malaysian capital until after the weekend, and will also return there next month after making a stop in Penang on 5 and 6 March.
The UEFA Champions League Trophy is back in Asia for the first time since the inaugural trophy tour of 2007 and following subsequent successful expeditions to Latin America, Africa and North America. This time, it will take in a total of four countries and seven cities during an eight-week Far Eastern excursion:
• 22-27 February – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
• 5-6 March – Penang (Malaysia)
• 11-12 March – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
• 16-17 March – Bangkok (Thailand)
• 19-20 March – Chiang Mai (Thailand)
• 25-27 March – Khon Kaen (Thailand)
• 6-9 April – Seoul (Korea Republic)
• 15-17 April – Hong Kong (China)
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