This is Manila.

(Apologies are in order for the delay of this post.)

As a Filipino Liverpool fan, it is quite hard to get a fix of your favorite football team in the country. Merchandise is limited; there are hardly any marketing efforts, and people in the country probably associate Liverpool with only the Beatles at best. Perhaps it didn’t help that when football had a resurgence in the Philippines, Liverpool was languishing at the middle of the table, prone to have uninspiring games and second half meltdowns.

Maybe it also helped that because we were so few, we bonded over a shared love for a club that stood for something ultimately bigger than the wins (but still finding time to remind everyone else that we have the most number of European championships among English club), a group of people who experienced the same highs and lows, and yes, even the unlucky slip.

We sought for our Liverpool fixes in dimly lit bars, perhaps surprising a couple of expats that, hey, there are Filipino Liverpool fans. Anything more than the televised game was sought for in other countries—there are those who meticulously plan visits to Anfield and pray to win the ticket lottery, and there are those who brave the thousands-strong crowds in any other Southeast Asian country to see the Red Men on their Asian tours.

Forgive us when we got too giddy over an invitation from the British Embassy for cocktails in honor of Liverpool coaches Phil Oliver and Colin Wilson, who were recently in the Philippines for a series of football clinics through the efforts of folks from Standard Chartered.

Speaking before a small group of Embassy staff, media, and Liverpool fans, coach Phil Oliver, in that distinct Scouse accent, remarked, “It’s been a fantastic experience. Liverpool value their partnership with Standard Chartered thanks to events like these. We hope that the children we taught would have the ambition to grow (as footballers). As long as the children have that ambition and passion to grow, football is obviously going to grow in the Philippines.”

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“It’s also fantastic to see so many Liverpool fans with the red shirts,” he continued. “There’s a lot of ambition and passion for Liverpool, and that’s something that we’ll go back with and tell the Academy.”

Meanwhile, Nimmi Kamal, Head of Corporate Affairs of Standard Chartered in the Philippines, shared that they have received “amazing feedback” from the boys that were trained by the Liverpool coaches, noting the unwavering passion of the students and their parents—despite the heat. “It’s been a good start, I would say. The objective is to grow the passion for football and for Liverpool,” she stated.

Consider this baby steps to Liverpool’s foray into the Philippines—and for a small initiative, it was received quite well.

For us fans, the evening reception was quite a treat, with Liverpool pins and cake pops as giveaways, coupled with tasty pub grub and maple bacon ice cream.

While the hope to get the first team to fly out to Manila remains quite distant, having the Liverpool Academy coaches was already a big deal. “This is the closest I’ll get to Steven Gerrard!” remarked a certain writer.

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How important was this for us? We had “This is Manila” shirts made for the Liverpool coaches, and coach Phil was kind enough to share a photo of the shirt finding its way to Anfield.

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Sure, these are baby steps for Liverpool in the Philippines, but these are equally baby steps for the Philippines to be put on Liverpool’s radar.

Bonus: Some items up for grabs in a silent auction—a shirt signed by the entire first team and a ball signed by Jordan Henderson!

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