Premiership outfit Liverpool FC may be all set to wow their sizeable Malaysian fan base when they take on the national team on Saturday, but many here have been wondering why it took so long for The Reds to visit in the first place.
The answer may well lie, oddly enough, in Liverpool's earlier shirt sponsor. Lager giants Carlsberg, whose logo was emblazoned on the club's jersey from 1992 up until 2010, had been a thorn in their attempt to make their way here, if public opinion is to be trusted. The club had toured Asia in 2009, visiting Singapore and Thailand, but skipping Malaysia.
“Malaysia is an Islamic nation and having the Carlsberg logo on the jerseys was a sore point for many of the club’s supporters and administrators, explained senior journalist Johardy Ibrahim of the Utusan Berhad daily. “Many avoided wearing the jerseys and it’s also why Liverpool used to skip Malaysia . A fair number of supporters had also defected for this reason.”
25-year-old Hadi Razzaq, a member of the Malaysian LFC fan club, concurred. “It’s haram. I love Liverpool but I could not get myself to wear the jerseys while the Carlsberg logo was on it. Newspapers here would tell us that the club avoided making the trip because of the sponsor which has a negative influence on the public.”
When asked what the supporters donned instead, Razzaq said, “The jerseys would often have just 'Liverpool' written across the front where the imprint used to be, or even Carlsberg in Chinese!”
“Ever since they dropped Carlsberg and Standard Chartered came onboard, jersey sales have also increased as have the number of fans joining supporter groups,” Ibrahim told HT. In a country of 27.6 million where 60.4 % of the population practices Islam, it's not entirely uncommon for sentiments to be rankled easily.