Growing up in Communist Mongolia, Amarsaikhan Orsoo struggled to follow the fortunes of the best team in one of the world's most capitalist countries.
However, despite the almost blanket ban on English football in the '80s, the unsociable kick-off times and the need to celebrate silently, Liverpool's red army in Mongolia continues to go from strength to strength.
In this week's edition of the LFC Global Family, the spotlight turns on a little country with a population of less than 3 million some 5,696 miles from Anfield.
Name: Amarsaikhan Orsoo Age: 42 City / country: Ulaanbaatar city, Mongolia Job: Head of Liverpool fan club Mongolia and administrator of www.liverpoolfc.mn
Why did you pick Liverpool as your team?
In 1982, I watched the FIFA World Cup for the first time on a black and white TV made in the Soviet Union and fell in love with this amazing sport of football. That was when I was 11 and during the Communist regime we didn't have much choice on TV channels in Mongolia. All we had was two channels, one was the Mongolian National TV station and the other being the premier Soviet Union channel and we had to watch the World Cup on the Russian one. Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying, I was fascinated by those live soccer matches. It was a totally refreshing thing for a child, whose eyes were wide open, to explore the world. All my friends and brothers cheered for the well-known teams of Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and West Germany, though I alone decided to root for team England. I still do not know why I picked England. However, the Soviet TV channel decided to broadcast the matches of their own teams or teams from the other Communist countries, which made me a little frustrated. They are my earliest memories of football and team England. And in 2003, I started working as the brand manager of Carlsberg beer in Mongolia. The incident that connected me and Liverpool FC was the fact that beer was supplied to Mongolia from Denmark and I worked on orders, contracts and shippings - and as everyone knows, Carlsberg at that time was the main sponsor of Liverpool. Hence, I have used my ID Carlsberg_mgl on online forums about football.
What's your earliest LFC memory?
Around 1982, when I was very much into football and played all day on a field chasing after the ball, I didn't have many sources to gain information except Russian TV and newspapers since Mongolia's society was really restricted. At school, Russian was the only available foreign language to study, so I started learning Russian from fourh grade and could understand it to a decent level. My father was in an upper position in the Labor Union and used to subscribe to Soviet Union magazines and newspapers according to Communists' tendencies. Apart from party papers, there were other newspapers such as Sovietsky Sport and weekly football and ice hockey paper, which turned out to be efficient tools to improve my Russian and learn about world of football. My favorite articles were about the matches of European and English teams. From then, I learned firstly about a great team called Liverpool and its skillful striker Ian Rush - 'the goal machine'. Every time I got the weekly newspaper, I could find some news about how Liverpool beat other teams and how Ian had scored again.
How did people in your country follow Liverpool's fortunes at first?
After the 1990 democratic revolution of Mongolia, the outer world became somewhat more visible for us as Mongolia emerged as the first democratic country in Central Asia after 70 years of Communist regime. But it wasn't easy for us to adapt to the newly found freedom, the freedom of obtaining information, freedom of speech and everything else that is fundamental to one's life, as well as the transition to the market economy. And during the first decade of our free market economy, everyone was so busy working hard to stand on their feet - since we had to rely only on ourselves; we had no ally to support us with everything, who, in turn, took raw materials and minerals from us limitlessly. Therefore, we had no chance or time to enjoy watching or playing sports.
But things got better from the early 2000s, and we finally managed to take a deep breath and had the time to look around. By then, the FIFA World Cup was organised in Asia - in South Korea and Japan - and it was a big thing for us as Mongolians to enjoy the amazing games as the matches were played at very favourable times locally. The number of Mongolian fans of football rapidly increased and it was a beginning of football boom in Mongolia. Also Euro 2004 attracted a big audience, which in turn created more Mongolian football fans.
Then Mongolian TV channels started to broadcast football matches, such as the English Premier League and the Champions League. On the 25th May 2005, at the Ataturk Stadium, Mongolia tuned in to watch the final between Italy's AC Milan and Liverpool FC from England. This amazing match instantly produced hundreds (sorry, it may sound so few, but overall we were some 2.5 million then) of Mongolian fans of Liverpool.
In our fan club, there are actually some guys who enlisted as LFC fans just after watching Michael Owen during the World Cup in France in 1998. As far as I know, one of the first ever Mongolian fans of Liverpool is Mr J.Otgontsagaan - general secretary of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee. As our club member, he became a fan of Liverpool by specifically cheering Kevin Keegan in middle of the 1970s.
Was it difficult to find out news or see the match?
In Communist society, there was no other source to get information other than handful of Soviet Union newspapers. Even Russian TV didn't broadcast about Liverpool's matches or even any games of the England national team. Only after the democratic revolution of Mongolia in 1990, it got easier for us to see beyond Russia. In the early 2000s, a couple of Russian TV channels began broadcasting Premier League matches live. That was a very nice opportunity for us. However, most of the matches were shown during nights and it was hard to stay awake with work in the morning. To ensure we didn't wake other family members, we had to learn how to celebrate our goals silently. Time zone difference between Ulaanbaatar and Liverpool is 7-8 hours and matches usually start around 11pm or as late as 4am. Despite that, now we always enjoy watching LFC matches without missing a single one.
Who was your first LFC hero and why?
Definitely Ian Rush! With the help of the Russian that I was taught at school, I read a lot about Liverpool in newspapers and learnt about the rise and rise of Ian Rush. He had some sort of unusual blessing in scoring goals.
What is your favourite LFC memory?
In 2011, when Liverpool visited Guangzhou in China during their Asian tour, I got media accreditation as a member of AIPS, and saw my beloved players from just a few metres away and participated in the press conference of King Kenny Dalglish. Those moments were unbelievable and unforgettable, I will always cherish my memories from Guangzhou.
As for other memories, Mongolian fans started gathering together and hanging out to watch Liverpool matches in 2009. Before that, I used to watch those matches alone at home and kept my emotions within myself (naturally, we Mongolians are not very outgoing). In 2012, nearly 200 of us gathered together in a pub and watched the League Cup final. The fact that Liverpool hadn't won a cup since 2006 and finally got one that year made us so happy. We celebrated it until dawn and it was great!
Then just a month ago, on May 5, my dream of watching a live match at Anfield came true and it was definitely one of the happiest day of my life. Watching a Merseyside derby for real and witnessing the last match together of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard was just too exciting to explain.
Who has been your favourite Liverpool manager and why?
Rafael Benitez - no doubt. He brought the team to the top in Europe. By the way, I really appreciate the way that some of our members describe me as similar to Rafa.
What has been your lowest point supporting Liverpool?
In the season of 2008-2009, it was very unfortunate to lose the title. I'm still thinking, 'What if?' Also the match we lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final of 2012. King Kenny was an inch away from becoming a double cup winner that year.
Describe your first visit to Anfield?
I was lucky enough to visit Anfield in spring 2013. Many Mongolian fans of LFC want to visit Anfield and see a match there; however, it's not easy for a Mongolian national to get a visa to the UK. The visa procedure is a long and complicated one. Besides this procedure, the financial expenditure to travel 6,000 mile is a high one. Our fan club had been planning to take an Anfield tour for the last two years and eventually eight of our members got visas with the help of British counsil and we were able to achieve our dream tour. I am sure I will visit Anfield quite a few times before I get too old to travel for 12 hours on a flight to Europe.
Where were you while we were in Istanbul?
That memorable night I was watching the match at home alone as back then Liverpool fans in Mongolia were not as organised as well as they are today. Also back then, we had no pub to allow us to watch a game. It was strict rule for Mongolian pubs to open until midnight and then close and the final didn't start until 2.45am our time. Liverpool started the game very badly but I was not worried because there was still plenty of time. But at half-time, it was almost too unbearable to watch. At my work, there were not many people to share my happiness and joy - only a manager with whom I shared my passion for Liverpool. That must have been the greatest comeback that has ever happened in football history! That is the match that I never get bored of watching again and again. I was reading Carragher's book and he said, 'There are no small things in football' which made me think about the second goal when Smicer scored. Instead of fixing his shin pad, Kaka had to defend Smicer...but he didn't.
Do Liverpool have a passionate fan base where you're from?
There's one wonderful thing I have to say here and that is despite the fact that the club has not been in its greatest form in recent years, the number of LFC fans in Mongolia is rapidly increasing. I truly believe that the Mongolian fans are the most passionate and hearty fans that a club can get - it's in our blood to be loyal to the things we love and value most. And we are the biggest football fan club in Mongolia; the most organised one too. Here's some brief info about the LFC fan club in Mongolia:
On December 15, 2010 we launched the official fan club website www.liverpoolfc.mn which made thousands of Mongolian fans happy by providing the latest information in our native language on our website. Since then we are working regularly to keep Liverpool fans in Mongolia fully updated on what is happening with the club. Day by day our website and online forum have been expanding. At this moment there are over 2,000 registered users on our forum.
The fan club has been conducting public events every year including charity events for children such as hiking, summer camps and winter holidays. At every event, numbers of fans taking part are increasing.
Which team are considered Liverpool's biggest rivals in your country?
We cannot say it is Manchester United like many other countries. Their fan club in Mongolia is sort of idle. Since the first FIFA World Cup held in Asia, football fans in Mongolia have been increasing very fast and during this team, Chelsea enjoyed a renaissance and many people started to support them. During Rafa's reign, we usually beat them and even though we've not been involved in the title race in the last few years, we've still been beating them. So we consider Chelsea and their fans in Mongolia as our biggest rivals.
Where do you go online to follow news about LFC?
We go to www.liverpoolfc.com for trustworthy information. In addition, we also visit Skysports and Eurosport and also some Russian sites where we gather interesting information and translate it to our native language for our fans in Mongolia.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
Steven Gerrard. There are not many players who have done more for a team than Stevie. Even though he had a chance to change teams for money, he showed us the meaning of loyalty.
If you could meet anyone connected to Liverpool FC - past or present - who would it be and why?
If it is only one player, I would meet with our captain. I traveled to South Africa only to see Stevie. In 2010, I was expecting England to qualify first place and play the quarter-final in Rustenburg but they qualified in second place, so the match was held in Bloemfontein against Germany. In Rustenburg, at the match between the USA and Ghana, there were many fans of England and Liverpool.
What makes you most proud to be a Liverpool supporter?
Liverpool is the greatest team on the planet. I am blessed to be a Liverpool fan. Nowadays, the only team which has stayed true to its traditions is Liverpool. I still believe many bright days on European fields are ahead of us and I am always happy to say I'm a Liverpool FC fan. I am proud of being part of the Red army in Mongolia.
Finally, what does 'the Liverpool way' mean to you ?
Liverpool is part of my life which gives me both pain and joy. Its not just about see them winning. Its about support them no matter whether we're losing or winning. It's about sharing our players' sorrow and their bliss and singing YNWA from the bottom of our hearts.