SINGAPORE — For most Liverpool fans in Singapore, any day in which their beloved football club make the long trip over to play a match in the city-state would be a special date.
For lifelong fan Shafiq Guee, the Reds' pre-season match with Crystal Palace for the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy on Friday (15 July) is particularly special - as it falls coincidentally on his 21st birthday.
But that's not all for the national serviceman, who also got special dispensation from his army unit to book out early to enjoy this special birthday occasion.
"When I was born in 2001, Liverpool were also in Singapore and were scheduled to play at the old National Stadium the next day," Guee told Yahoo News Singapore over coffee.
"My dad, who is also a die-hard Liverpool fan, held me with one hand and tickets for the match on the other. My mum had urged him to go for the match, but he decided to give it a miss to take care of me and my mum.
"Since then, he has never failed to mention his dilemma to me on my birthday. So this birthday is extra special, because I got to watch Liverpool play in Singapore together with my parents."
Supported the Reds through highs and lows
Having supported Liverpool for most of the past two decades, Guee has seen the Merseyside club gone through ecstatic highs and crushing lows: From nearly going into financial administration during the dark years in the early 2010s, to a minor revival of fortunes under manager Brendan Rodgers in 2014, to the current spate of successes led by Jurgen Klopp.
Sticking with his team through thick and thin has made him appreciative of the unique qualities of the club.
"I feel very proud of the Liverpool squad in that it has never been a one-man team like Barcelona under (Lionel) Messi or Real Madrid under (Cristiano) Ronaldo, or clubs who just pay big bucks for a big name," he said.
"For Liverpool, it's more like we get average players but we bring them up into very good, even world-class players. And everybody plays a part in the club's success.
"I think (manager) Jurgen Klopp brings a whole new definition to the culture of the club. He doesn't just focus on the monetary aspect or the strategical aspect, but focuses more on the emotional aspect of the fans and the players. He really makes the club very special to support."
Transitional period for Klopp's team?
While Guee has been hearing far fewer teases and taunts from rival fans these last few seasons, due to Liverpool's consistent recent successes, he believes that this upcoming English Premier League season could be a transitional one for the Reds.
"I think it be a bit unrealistic to expect trophies this season. I'd rather they finish third or fourth, qualify for the Champions League, and take their working in the young players and new signings," he said.
"We've also lost Sadio Mane recently, and as great as Klopp is, he needs time to integrate the young players and build another great team. Maybe after this season, we can challenge for many trophies again."
For now though, he will savour his 21st birthday, having seen his club's first-team stars in the flesh for the first time in his life.
"Just being able to see the first team play in front of my eyes, it was a momentous moment for me. I'll probably never forget this day," he said with a grin.
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