Seoul - It wasn’t just temperatures of 30 degrees and a humidity level of 90 per cent that greeted the Bayer 04 Leverkusen players and staff when they disembarked from Lufthansa Flight LH 712 at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport on Tuesday.
Son back home
Scores of fans and journalists gathered at the airport to welcome
as they embark on a five-day tour to prepare for the new season, which for the UEFA Champions League participants begins on 23 August away at Borussia Dortmund.
, one of the leading lights in South Korean football and a goalscorer for his country at the recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil, was delighted, and humbled, by the extraordinary reception for the team. “I'm delighted to be here and I’d like to thank everyone for the great welcome they’ve given us,” he said, before turning his attention to Wednesday’s friendly against FC Seoul, the club where he began his career. “I definitely want to win it!” As many as 50,000 spectators are expected to attend the game in the hope of seeing the
take to the pitch against his former employer, and new Bayer coach Roger Schmidt confirmed that the local football enthusiasts would get their wish. “He’ll certainly be playing some part, so the fans can get excited.”
The club are there not just to “promote the Bayer Leverkusen brand” in the words of sporting director Rudi Völler, but also to raise the profile of the Bundesliga as a whole. The tour entails certain commercial commitments, with the team set to visit the offices of team sponsor Bayer and a training facility owned by kit manufacturers adidas, but that is all part and parcel of a pre-season preparations according to Völler. “Obviously trips like these include their own exertions, but that comes with the job," said the 1990 World Cup winner. "Everything’s been organised so well these will be a great few days."
was likewise enamoured by what is a short trip but one that the players intend to make the most of: "I'm excited by the country. We're going to experience a lot here and have some great memories."