It was meant to be a creative campaign to raise awareness of social responsibility during the coronavirus crisis, but the Singapore government has been forced into a rethink after offending a group of Liverpool fans.
The government of the Asian city-state announced on Monday that it was “reviewing” its campaign featuring a band of Covid-19-battling superheroes dubbed the Virus Vanguard, after one of the fictional characters upset local Liverpool lovers.
“The Virus Vanguard is undergoing a review. We have received quite a lot of feedback on the characters and we will be reviewing them. We are sorry if we offended anyone,” the government said in a Facebook post, along with blacked-out images of the superheroes.
The hardy band was made up of five fictional Covid-19 combatants – Circuit Breaker, Fake News Buster, Dr Disinfector, Care-leh Dee and MAWA (Must Always Walk Alone) Man – each of whom had special powers to help remind Singaporeans of their responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Singapore Government has created a team of superheroes to fight the Coronavirus/COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/H76e5thfq6
But it was MAWA Man who fell foul of local Liverpool fans due to his name and backstory.
The MAWA moniker was a distortion of the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ anthem beloved by Reds’ fans, and the character’s backstory created by the government revealed that he “despise[s] everything Liverpool including their motto You’ll Never Walk Alone.
“His hatred for Liverpool so far exceeds his love for Man Utd that it manifested as a telekinesis power.”
MAWA Man’s outfit also featured the Liverpool crest with a red line through it to hammer his hatred home.
the campaign has been taken down due to backlash – a not insignificant amount from Liverpool fans mad at the social distancing hero “Must Always Walk Alone (MAWA) Man” pic.twitter.com/1P4vYjskMw
That proved too much to stomach for a local Liverpool fan club, who set up a petition signed by more than 800 people to get the character scrapped.
“‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is a song that was collectively used by most European radio stations as a show of solidarity amidst the Covid-19 lockdowns,” the upset fan group fumed.
“Yet this campaign appears to be an attempt to make a mockery of the song. This is distasteful and extremely disrespectful.”
The appears to have prompted the government review on Monday, as the public awaits revamped versions of the characters.
Despite the backlash, rival fans reveled in the Singaporean government’s Liverpool-bashing superhero, with one praising it for taking football fan trolling “to national heights.”
“His hatred for Liverpool so far exceeds his love for Man Utd.” MAWA Man, hahahahah. Shitposting has reached national heights, I love it. pic.twitter.com/joKuWvTp8N
As of Tuesday, Singapore had registered 9,125 cases of Covid-19 and had suffered 11 deaths.
But even during these intense times of global crisis and mass suffering, it seems football rivalries are very much alive and kicking.