SINGAPORE - Eight hours. So highly anticipated was Liverpool's return to the Republic that fans started gathering outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 10am, eight hours before their estimated arrival time on Wednesday (July 13).
When The Straits Times reached at 4.30pm, over 100 fans donning jerseys and holding Liverpool posters had gathered behind the barricades. That number slowly increased to nearly 300 and the fans entertained themselves by occasionally breaking out into song.
The last time the Premier League giants played in Singapore was in 2009. On Friday, they will play fellow top-flight side Crystal Palace in the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy 2022 at the National Stadium.
As the two team buses pulled up, the supporters started cheering as manager Jurgen Klopp gave fans on all sides a wave. He was later followed by fan favourites Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Alisson as well as new signings Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho.
Most players merely gave a wave of acknowledgement or thumbs up with only one or two stopping for a quick photo with a handful of fans on the way into the hotel.
Still, long-time fan Jocelyn Ng, 33, was grateful that the players are here. Since she will miss this week's friendly as she will be on holiday, Ng was determined to catch a glimpse of Klopp at the hotel.
Ng, who has been a Reds fan since she was in primary school, said: "It feels so surreal seeing them here right in front of us. The players did not interact much with the fans but I understand that it is probably because it has been tiring for them.
"They also had a match last night so naturally they need to recover. Hopefully I will get to go to Anfield soon and watch a match live there."
Liverpool flew to the Republic from Bangkok, where they lost 4-0 to Manchester United in another pre-season friendly on Tuesday.
Reds supporter Dominic Teng, who was the first to reach, had been hoping to get autographs from the players and while he was sad that did not happen, he is still looking forward to the match and the Reds' open training session on Thursday.
The 34-year-old, who has been a fan since 2000, said: "I'm sad but I understand that they're probably tired from yesterday and focused on training. With the Covid-19 situation also, they might not want to interact a lot with the fans.
"I'm just glad they will be playing here, what more can I ask for? I'm really excited... it's been such a long time since they last played here. There's certainly an air of excitement and exhilaration now."
Don Gurminder Singh, 43, is also looking forward to another electrifying atmosphere similar to what he experienced in 2009.
The fan of 37 years was planning to visit Anfield in 2020 but his plans were shelved because of the pandemic.
He said: "For now, this is the closest I can get to them. We had the Kallang Wave in 2009 and we sang You'll Never Walk Alone. We can't compare the atmosphere here to Anfield, but I'm looking forward to watching them, especially Nunez and I hope he performs this season.
"It's also good exposure for Singapore that Liverpool are here. After two years of the pandemic, it's like bringing sports here back to life and it's a good sign. Hopefully there's more to come and Liverpool will come back again."