Growing up a Liverpool supporter in Burma – now known as Myanmar – was far from easy. Isolated from the rest of the world between 1962 and 2010, it was near-on impossible to follow the fortunes of a team from a city in the north west of England.
What games that did get shown - in the mid-1980s at least - were delayed by up to two weeks whilst fans had to sneak into the British or American embassies to try and find foreign newspapers to read about their heroes.
Leaving the country to go and watch Liverpool play games in neighbouring Thailand was considered a pipe-dream for most fans but despite such difficulties, the fans persevered and now with the country having undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, the number of Myanmar Reds are growing by the day. This is Khin's fascinating story of growing up a Liverpool supporter in a country that for decades shut out the outside world...
For anyone over the age of 30, growing up in Burma was like growing up inside a time capsule. While the rest of the world was moving forward and progressing, we were stood still. We were left behind in the old era - in every aspect of life.
Why did you pick Liverpool as your team?
My brother went to England in 1979 and settled down in Liverpool. My niece and my nephew were born there and grew up in Liverpool. They were friends of Mr John Barnes's son. I can proudly say we now have Liverpudlians in our family! My family's favourite sport is football so Liverpool FC is automatically and naturally our family team in the English Premier League.
What's your earliest LFC memory?
In late 70s, I used to visit the British embassy's library and the US embassy's library (security was not that tight in those days) to read foreign newspapers. At that time, it was very difficult to get foreign magazines, journals or books in my country. One day, I came across a news article in one of the British newspapers about Liverpool FC. I don't remember the name of the newspaper but I still clearly remember the headline, it mentioned, 'Liverpool Kings of Europe Again'. It was an article about the 1978 Champions League (European Cup) final against Bruges which LFC had won 1-0. When I saw the headlines, what came to my mind was, 'Oh, this is the team from The Beatles' home town'. That was my earliest LFC memory and one year later my brother was settled down and living in Liverpool!
How did people in your country follow Liverpool's fortunes at first?
Up until the early 80s, most of the people in my country were not really aware of any foreign football clubs. They only knew foreign national teams that played in World Cups as the government newspaper would cover this. Then, in the early 80s we got the very first TV in our country. Around the mid-80s, every Saturday afternoon our national TV station would show a delayed telecast - and when I say delayed, I mean delayed by a week or two weeks - of English First Division matches. It was Liverpool FC's golden era so our TV station showed LFC matches quite frequently. It was at that point that people from my country started becoming familiar with Liverpool FC.
How did the political situation in your country affect following LFC and football?
The military took over power in my country in 1962. It was a very difficult time from the early 60s to the mid-80s because all of the media was under the total control of the authorities. This meant following LFC and football in general was pretty much impossible. Very occasionally we got some football news about other national teams during a World Cup tournament but that was the extent of the football news allowed in the country. The mid-80s saw the start of the delayed telecasts but it didn't last long.
After the democracy movement was suppressed in 1988, we were isolated again from the world for almost a decade. I personally went overseas in 1991 to work so I could follow LFC but for the people inside Myanmar, it was practically impossible to support Liverpool. However, since 2010, the political situation in my country has rapidly changed in a more positive direction and the restrictions on the media have been gradually relaxed. We're now allowed to use the internet and social media quite 'freely' (subject to technical accessibility) and local TV channels have started showing EPL matches. I can definitely say it is much easier to now follow LFC and football than at any time under military control.
Was football looked down upon by the authorities?
The authorities did not look down upon football because our country is a football-mad country like other ASEAN countries, but the authorities definitely had some influence over the national team. In 1988 we had a big democracy uprising but it was suppressed and after that the authorities tightly controlled the media and we were virtually isolated from the outside world again for few years. In the mid-90s, the sports-related journals were allowed to publish again and that's when interest in the EPL picked up again.
Who was your first LFC hero and why?
Mr Ian Rush. When I watched the delayed telecast of LFC matches in the 80s, I noticed that one skinny player scored goals almost every match. Later I found out that his name was Ian Rush. He became my first LFC hero because he scored goals almost every game!
What is your favourite LFC memory?
I can easily say the Champions League final in Istanbul. Three-nil down in the first half... you didn't give up but at the same time your hopes were almost gone. LFC supporters sang YNWA from their hearts during the break which gave you goose bumps even though we were thousands of miles away from Istanbul. Then all of sudden in the second half - in the space of six minutes - Gerrard, Smicer, and Alonso... bang, bang, bang! We were on equal terms at 3-3! Carra cramped and then Dudek did his incredible double save! Penalty shoot-out! What more drama could you want? We were Kings of Europe again for the fifth time. Even Hollywood could not write this kind of drama but this was not drama, it was history!
Where were you while we were in Istanbul?
I was working a second shift on that day so I arrived back home quite late - around 2am on the 26th of May. I was watching the match alone in my apartment around 3am and the final actually caused a problem with my neighbour. When Jerzy Dudek saved Shevchenko's penalty, I forgot it was around 5.30am and I shouted and cheered at the top of my lungs and jumped around in my room. Within a minute, my neighbour knocked at my door and complained about the noise that I was making. I bought a cake that evening and went to his apartment and apologised. My neighbour told me that he had read the news about the match on the internet and then he laughed and told me he now understood why I had shouted so loud! I was forgiven for making the noise!
Who has been your favourite Liverpool manager and why?
Mr Kenny Dalglish. Not only because of his wonderful talent as a footballer, not only because he brought many trophies to the club as a player and as a manger but more importantly because of his exceptional leadership during and after the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy. I see him as not only a living legend of the club but also as the saviour of the club. During Hillsborough, everyone acknowledged his exemplary leadership. He was able to pull together the team and the supporters again and won us the FA Cup that year. When he came back to manage LFC for the second time in 2011, he united the supporters and he brought LFC back to Wembley again for two cup finals and won one cup. There is nothing more we can ask from him. He gave everything to Liverpool FC.
What has been your lowest point supporting Liverpool?
The Hillsborough tragedy and also when Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett brought LFC to court over the sale of the club.
Have you ever been to Anfield?
Yes! In 1997, I had a chance to visit my brother in Liverpool and also to visit Anfield. It was an unforgettable trip and I know I will visit Anfield again in the very near future.
Does Liverpool have a passionate fan base where you're from?
Yes. We have many very passionate Liverpool FC supporters in Myanmar and we call ourselves the Myanmar Reds! Most of our members are young supporters who were born in the late 80s and the 90s. When they started supporting LFC, Liverpool was not as successful as it used to be but win, lose or draw, they keep supporting the club no matter what. I can proudly say that all of the Myanmar Reds members are true and loyal supporters of Liverpool FC. They even donated blood (three times) under the name of the official Liverpool FC Supporters' Club Myanmar during our anniversary celebration and when we become an official LFC Supporters' Club.
How have the changes in your country affected how you follow football?
I can say it has changed in a very positive way. Now I can travel between my country and our neighbour countries frequently and am able to meet LFC supporters from elsewhere. I am able to support LFC at the Asia Tour, EPL Masters and LFC U19 matches. Before it was just a dream to go to watch Liverpool play because even travel in and out of our country was very difficult even though you are a citizen. Due to the positive changes, recently 10 members from our Myanmar Reds Supporters' Club were able to attend the LFC Tour 2013 in Thailand and another four members attended the LFC Tour 2013 in Jakarta.
Also, it was very difficult to use the internet and social media before 2010 but now we can use them quite freely. We are now able to search for information and news about the club and the players on the internet; we can join discussion groups and share opinions and predictions. We are also able to contact LFC supporters from different cities and the towns throughout our country by email and through the social media networks, we are able to recruit new members.
Through social media like Facebook and Twitter, we can organise activities like watching LFC live matches together and also doing good work in the community under the LFC name.
Which team are considered Liverpool's biggest rivals in your country?
As in other countries, Manchester United is considered LFC's biggest rival in my country.
Where do you go online to follow news about LFC?
Normally Liverpool FC's website, Facebook page and Twitter. I also visit other sports-related websites and British media websites.
Do you also support a local team?
I support our national football teams - both the men and the women.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
Steven Gerrard. He is the born leader. He leads the team by example on and off the field and he never gives up. He is the ultimate all-rounder - he can score, he can pass and he can tackle. He's a one-club player, a loyal servant of the club, a local lad and, to me, he is Mr Liverpool.
If you could meet anyone connected to Liverpool FC - past or present - who would it be and why?
This is a very difficult question! I'd like to meet many but as I just met Stevie during the LFC tour, I have to pick Mr Kenny Dalglish because he is the living legend of Liverpool FC and my favourite manager. He was, is and will always be the king!
What makes you most proud to be a Liverpool supporter?
The history and the success of the club, the camaraderie amongst the supporters, singing the club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' together with my fellow supporters... all of these things make you feel you are part of the big global family.
When I visited Jakarta for the very first time for the EPL Masters Tournament, I was alone but when the Big Reds members found out I was an LFC supporter from Myanmar, they all came and greeted me warmly and treated me like I was their close friend. Also, whenever I was in Singapore and went to see the live matches, Singapore LFC supporters always welcomed me warmly. Wherever you go, if you are an LFC supporter and if there is an LFC supporters' club, you never feel alone! That makes me really proud to be a Liverpool FC supporter.
Finally, what does 'the Liverpool way' mean to you?
It is very difficult to define exactly what 'the Liverpool way' means. For me, it means dignity, honesty, self-reliance, mutual respect, equality, brotherhood, camaraderie and consideration as the basic principles of how you live your life. That is 'the Liverpool way' of doing things.