Michael Jackson statue at Fulham FC
LONDON — Fulham unveiled a statue of Michael Jackson outside its stadium on Sunday, with team chairman Mohamed Al Fayed telling fans to support another Premier League club if they don’t like the idea.
Al Fayed, who was close friends with Jackson, danced with children after unveiling the statue of the “King of Pop” before Fulham’s home match against Blackpool.
The statue outside Craven Cottage has divided opinion, but Al Fayed launched a passionate defense of his move to commemorate his friendship with Jackson, who died in 2009.
“Why is it bizarre?” he said. “Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell.
“I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in, they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else.”
Chelsea, the defending English champion, is the nearest Premier League team to Fulham, with both clubs located in southwest London.
“People will queue to come and visit it from all over Britain and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of,” Al Fayed said.
The statue had been slated to be erected outside Harrods department store, but those plans were shelved when Al Fayed sold the business last year.
The singer attended a Fulham match in 1999.
Sunday’s game was not a thriller with Fulham beating Blackpool 3-0.
Fulham chairman Mohammed Al Fayed has told fans they can “go to hell” if they do not appreciate a new Michael Jackson statue at Craven Cottage stadium.
Mr Al Fayed unveiled the statue on Sunday prior to the west London Premier League team’s match against Blackpool.
The statue was commissioned following Jackson’s death in June 2009 and was due to be erected at Harrods before Mr Al Fayed sold the Knightsbridge store.
Outside the stadium, Fulham fan Michael Tune said: “We’re a laughing stock. It has nothing to do with football.”
Another Fulham fan, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “It makes the club look silly. I thought it was an April Fools joke.”
But Mr Al Fayed said: “If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell.
“I don’t want them to be fans.
“If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else,” he added.
Mr Al Fayed’s decision to relocate the statue of Jackson to Fulham’s stadium has been unpopular with some fans.
The singer was a friend of Mr Al Fayed’s but his only known link to the football club is that he attended one game as a guest of the chairman, against Wigan Athletic in 1999.
But Mr Al Fayed said: “The last game he attended here with me, he was running like a child, he loved the place.
“He loved Fulham and he wanted to attend all of the matches.
“People will queue to come and visit it from all over the UK and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of.”
Kit Symons, who played in the match Jackson attended in 1999 and is now under-18s manager at the Cottagers said: “It is great.
We have the deepest respect for everything about the chairman. If he wants to do this then it is all good”
“The big thing is it is obviously something that the chairman feels very, very passionately about and he has decided to erect this statue and fair dos to him.”
Reflecting on the time of Jackson’s visit, he added: “It was just happy times.
“The chairman obviously used to bring high profile people down the games.
“Tony Curtis was here a few weeks after and it was just fantastic times.”
Central defender Brede Hangeland said the decision to erect the statue was backed by the club’s players.
He said: “Some of our players are Michael Jackson fans, some aren’t, and that’s the same in the general population.
“His music has been on in the dressing room a couple of times. I’m sure we won when his music was played!
“We have the deepest respect for everything about the chairman. If he wants to do this then it is all good.”
Inspired by the statue, Fulham beat Blackpool 3-0 in the match which followed the unveiling.
The statue is great, I love it. Thank you very much Mr Al Fayed. You’re a true champion. Robert Chapman, UK
I am not a football fan but I think it is ridiculous to have a Michael Jackson statue at a football club. I think it is not the place, particularly as he had no real connection to football. Hannah Myatt, Witham, Essex
Absolutely ridiculous! Statues of football icons, yes. Pop stars no. I don’t care what the circumstances. Perhaps big Al thinks he should have a statue in the future as well. No thanks. Robert Brocklehurst, Camberley
While I think it is a fair enough idea, although a little strange, the statue doesn’t even look like Michael Jackson. Paul Murray, Aberdeen
The idea of a Michael Jackson statue is great, furthermore it’s not getting in anybody’s way, and it will raise the profile of the club worldwide. I wonder why anybody should oppose it? Harrison, London
Most of us who have followed Fulham FC in very bizarre times and with strange chairman, e.g. Tommy Trinder and Ernie Clay, will shrug and see this as another minor example of how rich men can pander their own peculiarities. The most important thing that happened was Fulham getting three points against Blackpool. Having a statue to Michael Jackson proves we still provide others with the belief we’re a bit of an oddity in the Premier Division. Michael Gannon, London
I think Mohammed Al Fayed has demonstrated how much he cares about Fulham Football Club, the fans or basically anyone who does not kowtow to him. A football ground is not an appropriate place for such a statue – it was even Mr Al Fayed’s second choice of venue. Following his comments I only hope the vast majority of Fulham fans now boycott the ground until Mr Al Fayed is removed as chairman – hopefully taking his statue with him. Peter Eccleston, Lancing
Owners of football clubs have to realise that the clubs are not their little toys. Al Fayed is a good owner and has done so much to to get Fulham where they are. However this does not mean he has a divine right to do what he pleases. This also applies to owners naming new stadiums after themselves (Dave Whelan, John Madejski). Neil M, Guildford
Football is becoming so far-removed from reality that this makes complete sense. If the caprice of the billionaire owner dictates a statue is erected to someone with no connection to the game much less the club, then so be it. Pay journeymen players £40,000 per week for mediocre performances or to sit on the bench – it’s all part of the madness of modern soccer. The financial crisis is yet to hit bottom but before it does football will discover it is no more immune to economics than any other walk of life. Andrew, Glasgow
Not everyone is a Michael Jackson fan but for Mr Al Fayed to say that anyone who disagrees with his view can go to hell, is not in keeping with co-operation in the community. Just hope that those who he wants to go to hell, leave his football club and go elsewhere. It’ll be his loss not the fans. Coln, London