(Reuters) - Singapore's government has axed an entire team of coronavirus-fighting mascots after one Liverpool-hating member of the five-strong band of fictional superheroes ended up enraging a section of the city's passionate soccer supporters.
The mascot, named MAWA (Must Always Walk Alone) Man, a play on Liverpool's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone', was described on the government's website on a since-deleted page as "a Manchester United fan from the 80s".
MAWA Man enforced social distancing using telekinetic powers gained from his hatred of United's bitter rivals Liverpool and he formed part of the Virus Vanguard.
The English Premier League has a vast fan following in Asia and current leaders Liverpool are one of the most popular clubs, so it wasn't long before irate fans launched an online petition calling for MAWA Man's removal.
"'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," said the change.org petition, which gained more than 850 signatures.
"This campaign appears to be an attempt to make a mockery of the song. This is distasteful and extremely disrespectful."
The outcry prompted the Singapore government to quickly roll back the campaign.
"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 statement on its Facebook page.
"As this is the first time we are exploring this content format, we appreciate your patience."
MAWA Man's creator also apologised in a comment below the government's Facebook post.
"I apologise that the characters came across insensitive," artist Mas Shafreen said. "I am a Man Utd fan and I will be the first to admit that Liverpool is doing well, unlike Man U.
"MAWA Man was more about how we should practise safe distancing but the aim is that he will realise that it takes all of us, regardless of which team we support, to pull through this together. And we cannot just do this alone."
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)
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