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Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 14:12 UK

Man City delighted with SA tour

By Piers Edwards
BBC Sport, Johannesburg

Emmanuel Adebayor (left) and Kaizer Chiefs' Thomas Sweswe
Emmanuel Adebayor (left) and Kaizer Chiefs' Thomas Sweswe

Manchester City ended their tour of South Africa with nothing but praise for both their hosts and opponents.

Kaizer Chiefs lifted the Vodacom Challenge trophy on Saturday after stunning City with a 1-0 victory in Pretoria to wrap up the pre-season competition.

"Chiefs are worthy winners of the trophy," said City coach Mark Hughes afterwards.

"But for us, it's been a fantastic experience being in South Africa and we've really enjoyed our time.

"We feel as though we've made a lot of friends here, we've really enjoyed every aspect of life here, it's been very rewarding and we hope to come back soon."

City's three-match tour incorporated two defeats, against Chiefs and an opening 2-0 loss to Orlando Pirates, as well as Tuesday's sole victory against Chiefs in Durban.

While City are by no means the most popular English club in South Africa, local fans still turned out in force to watch the games, even if there were empty seats at Durban's Absa Stadium and Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld (both of which seat over 52,000).

"Prior to the big signings, City were just another Premier League team - pretty much a no-name brand," local journalist Billy Cooper told BBC Sport.

"There are simply no way as many City fans here as there are Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal.

"When United came out last year, Chiefs fans were outnumbered by United fans for the first time in living memory."

They have the players, squad and spirit to fight for the top four, which is why I signed

Emmanuel Adebayor

And unlike the Confederations Cup, when many South African fans held up placards supporting Liverpool's Fernando Torres, there were few to be seen for City in South Africa - save for one raised by local Chelsea fans reading 'John Terry is not for sale'.

Nonetheless, the tour has certainly raised the profile of Manchester City, who executive chairman Garry Cook hopes to turn into the 'darling of world football'.

"I like Man City, especially with the big-name players they've signed, so everyone is looking forward to the season to see how they are going to perform," said one young South African.

Although many locals dismiss City as a 'small club', Hachim, 25, is more positive.

Dumiso Mabena (left) and Nigel de Jong in action in Saturday's match
Orlando Pirates' Dumiso Mabena (left) and Nigel de Jong in action

"Even though Man City is new to us and must do a lot to catch up since Manchester United and Liverpool are the popular teams here, they can become more popular.

"When I look at the calibre of players they have bought, I definitely think they are going somewhere."

And their visit has also been appreciated by both South African teams they faced in the three-team Vodacom Challenge.

"The expertise they've brought to us in terms of technique and international exposure is quite wonderful for the players," Kaizer Chiefs team manager Bobby Motaung Jr told BBC Sport.

"It's also good for the country to see the big-name players in the country, and with City having done so well in their acquisition of big-name players, it couldn't have come at a better time."

During their visit, City paid Arsenal £25m for Emmanuel Adebayor who soon flew out to South Africa to join his new colleagues.

Unfortunately for the lanky Togolese, his City debut was most notable for a glaring miss after 55 minutes when his left-footed effort blazed over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.

We've all been commenting on the atmosphere that South African crowds can generate

Mark Hughes

Yet his is still a hero to many South Africans, with several sporting sky blue T-shirts proudly bearing Adebayor's photo.

"I'm very pleased to join this club because it is showing ambition and they think I'm a player who can help them achieve their dreams," Adebayor explained.

"They have the players, squad and spirit to fight for the top four, which is why I signed."

Adebayor's presence will boost City's profile across Africa as the continent's football fans love to follow their own - as striker Craig Bellamy, who has an academy in Sierra Leone, knows well.

"The African region will watch African players at their clubs and if they are very good African players, they will support them even more - which is something I praise Africa for," the Welshman told BBC Sport.

"They really get behind their players and those players are worshipped here, probably more than in other continents elsewhere - which is something to be proud of."

And the local passion for football in the venue for next year's World Cup finals has definitely left its mark on City's touring party.

"We've all been commenting on the atmosphere that South African crowds can generate and it really helps when you're playing within that, as it stimulates the players," Hughes explained.

"Sometimes, friendly matches can have no energy but that doesn't happen here: there's huge enthusiasm here for football and that's recognised by everyone at Man City."



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see also
Orlando Pirates 2-0 Man City
18 Jul 09 |  African
Man City pull plug on Eto'o move
10 Jul 09 |  Man City
Orlando Pirates 0-4 Man Utd
16 Jul 06 |  Man Utd


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