Gooner bin Laden
BBC Two recently screened a programme entitled "I met Osama Bin Laden", where people who had met the infamous Al Qaeda leader were able to give their impressions of the man who went from shy, moderate schoolboy to ruthless terrorist leader. They have, however, missed one vital chapter from his life, the episode that quite possibly tipped him over the edge. You see, I Met Osama Bin Laden. Probably.
March 26th 1994 - Arsenal vs Liverpool at Highbury Stadium in London. Both teams are on the decline after moments of glory at the start of the decade. Liverpool are never to attain the dizzy heights they achieved in the seventies and eighties, Arsenal are to bump along the bottom until Arsene Wenger joins the club and makes them one of the great teams in English football. But today, it is dour fare as Arsenal huff and puff to a 1-0 victory, as the home fans taunt their Liverpool counterparts with the chant "You're the worst scouse team we've ever seen."
I am in the Clock End, gleaming with newly-fitted red plastic seats, just right of centre and about ten rows from the front, after a couple of hours of selling football fanzines outside Finsbury Park Mosque. The seat in front of me is empty, affording me a decent view of the pitch.
Two minutes before kick-off, a very tall bearded Arabic gentleman limps along the row and takes the seat in front of me. My view is blocked completely, and I spend the ninety minutes staring at the back of his head, as he mutters curses at the quality of the football, aimed mostly at "that infidel Robbie Fowler." When Arsenal score, he is on his feet, applauding politely, while the rest of the stand goes mad. Then, the match over, he leaves.
It is my firm belief that paying good money to watch a team containing the likes of John "Porno Star" Jensen, "Whatever happened to" Ian Selley, Steve "Jesus, we must have been desperate" Morrow and Eddie "Get off the pitch you useless cunt" McGoldrick turned mild-mannered billionaire Osama bin Laden to the bloodthirsty homocidal maniac that we know and hate. Either that, or that match against Liverpool saw the start of a working relationship between bin Laden and Graeme "The Beast" Souness to destroy society as we know it. Stranger things have happened.
It is not until seven years later, his face known around the world, that the news comes out that a certain world's most wanted man used to frequent the Clock End at Highbury during his sojourn in London in the early 1990s and I made the connection.
I could have had him. Sorry.
Contemporary witnesses can place bin Laden in London in early 1994, and it is known that he attended the matches against Torino and Paris St Germain, as well as at least two other league matches. Spooky, huh?