Monday, July 23
By Rob Kelly in Kuala Lumpur
There he stood, arms aloft, shouting "Adrian!" - Benik Afobe had made it to the top of the 272 steep steps leading up to the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur and he wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to reference the legendary 'Rocky' scene.
It had been an exhausting climb, much more so for the staff than the athletes we had accompanied, but it was well worth it. This was a chance for Benik, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone to visit one of Malaysia's most impressive landmarks and they showed a keen interest in its history.
One of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, the Batu Caves is a limestone hill more than 400 million years old and it certainly caught the imagination of the Arsenal trio - when they weren't fending off rogue monkeys.
The steps leading up to the caves are lined with these inquisitive creatures, and Vito nearly came a cropper when posing beside one who suddenly decided to bare his teeth at the Arsenal goalkeeper. That was enough for Benik, who steadfastly kept his distance from any others who wanted to edge closer to the stars in their midst.
"Coming to the caves was absolutely unreal but I did get a bit scared of the monkeys," Benik told me later, in the safer confines of the coach. It had been a close shave but he had made it through unscathed.
It was a fascinating trip, and part of an exciting second day in Kuala Lumpur for Arsenal's touring party. Elsewhere, the lucky pupils of one school in the city experienced a day they will never forget as six Gunners including Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andre Santos surprised them with a secret visit. To the delight of hundreds of schoolchildren the Arsenal players held a special assembly as part of the Nike Interschool Challenge and the smiles on their faces told them it had been a truly worthwhile experience.
Later in the afternoon another batch of players including Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby took part in a special coaching clinic organised by Emirates to help inspire children into sport. The unrelenting heat of the afternoon sun meant that some players were happier to take more of a backseat role, instead of participating in frenetic matches!
The evening saw the Arsenal squad take part in an open training session at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil, ahead of Tuesday's friendly against a Malaysia XI. In front of thousands of passionate, screaming supporters, the players were given a thorough workout to conclude a thrilling, and rewarding, day.
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