SINGAPORE - As the Singapore Sports Hub braces itself for a Blue Samurai invasion on Oct 14, when Japan take on Brazil at the National Stadium, one thing is almost certain.
Football fans here are set for a dose of Kagawa-mania.
Despite the Japanese star's failings over the past two years, Shinji Kagawa will take much of the spotlight - alongside Brazilian icon Neymar - when the Japan national team arrives on our shores.
Both teams arrive here for the glamour friendly on a mission of rebuilding and redemption, after a disappointing World Cup in Brazil last summer.
Redemption, is also a word high on Kagawa's prescription list, as he aims to prove his worth once again after two unhappy seasons at Manchester United.
When the 25-year-old left Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund for the Red Devils in the summer of 2012, Kagawa seemed destined for greatness.
Two years later, his transfer seemed more of a ploy to sell United shirts in East Asia than to strengthen the English giants.
Few will deny Kagawa's potential; YouTube clips of his skill on the ball and precise passing have reached more than a million views.
But the flamboyant 1.73m playmaker clearly could not cope with the physical demands of the Premiership, and often retreated into his shell on the pitch when the going got tough for United.
Some will say Sir Alex Ferguson, and later David Moyes, did not give the Kobe native enough games, and when he did play, it was on the flank, not in his central position.
For Japan at the World Cup, he was entrusted the main creative role, alongside talented midfielder Keisuke Honda. But he withered amid all the hype and expectations, as the Blue Samurai crashed out of the group stages with just one point from three games.
The jury is still out on Kagawa. For now, he is surely relieved to be back at the club where he enjoyed so much success, playing for Juergen Klopp, a coach who has trusted him from Day One.
Kagawa will have little concern that he won't be valued at Dortmund.
The playmaker was a real fans' favourite during his first spell with the club and the BVB faithful even launched a campaign on Twitter - #FreeShinji - to show their support when he was going through a difficult time at United.
Much of the estimated 55,000 fans at the National Stadium will show Kagawa the same kind of adoration when he's here.
He will, in turn, have to prove himself; to dazzle and wow like he did for Dortmund before.
Kagawa will have to prove he isn't just a European team's marketing ploy to gain a strong Asian following.
His road to redemption could well begin in Singapore.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Attacking midfielder
DOB: 17/03/89 (25 years old)
Previous clubs: Cerezo Osaka (2006-10), Borussia Dortmund (2010-12), Manchester United (2012-14)
International appearances: 58
International goals: 19
Honours: 2010-11, 2011-12 Bundesliga title winner; 2011-12 German Cup winner; 2011 Asian Cup winner; 2012-13 EPL title winner
Cat 1: 10,000 seats - $180
Cat 2: 10,000 seats - $110
Cat 3: 16,000 seats - $70
Cat 4: 16,000 seats - $40
For patrons under 16 years of age, tickets are priced between $25 and $45.
Family Packs (two adults and two children): Cat 3 ($160), Cat 4 ($100)
Promotion: Tickets can be purchased online at www.sportshubtix.sg (http://www.sportshubtix.sg) or at the Sports Hub Tix Box Office located at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
This article was first published on September 24, 2014.
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