By Nick Creely
This Sunday presents a unique challenge for promoted NPL side Dandenong Thunder, with Chinese Super League team Guangzhou R&F to visit George Andrews Reserve for a pre-season friendly.
The match; which kicks off at 5pm on 11 February; will pit the Thunder up against a side playing at the highest level in China and at continental level, with the challenge not lost on coach Andy Vargas, who explained the mindset of his group heading into the game.
“We trained yesterday at the club in 38 degress, and the boys put in an amazing effort; we spoke about it, and we’re playing a professional outfit, with some of their players earning in excess of $40,000 a week, so we know we’re dealing with a really sharp unit,” he said.
“We have players who are labourers, or in an office all day and then come to training, so the challenge is managing people’s lives outside of football; we know it’s a big challenge, but the best thing we can do is a make a real good account of ourselves, and display a unified front.
“We reiterated to the boys that the best way to respect the opposition is to work hard, and give your all; we’ll go in with a game plan, and try and minimize their arsenal, but the main thing is to just give a respectable account of ourselves.
“If we can walk off nice and proud, then that’s all you can really expect I think.”
Thunder president Adem Tahiri explained that the match provides an opportunity for the club to test itself out ahead of returning to the top flight of Victorian football in 2018
“It’s a massive opportunity, with Guangzhou R&F being one of the heavy hitters of the Chinese Super League, we’re talking about a club that is a $15 million playing list, compared to our $6000 playing list, so that gives you an insight into the challenge of the match,” he said.
“It will be a great spectacle, and we welcome all to attend.
“We hope everyone in the Dandenong area gets around the club and embraces us, as we embrace the community.”
The match is free entry for all those wanting to attend.