Cold Call: Jack O'Sullivan rings Samantha Kane

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The Independent Culture
BEFORE CALLING Samantha Kane, I contact Sheffield United. Can it be true that an Iraqi-born transsexual, fresh from an operation, aims to take over such a bastion of unreconstructed masculinity - a northern England football club? It's a hoax, isn't it? "Certainly not," says a gruff, macho Yorkshire voice down the phone. "Ms Kane is being considered for the post of chief executive. That's all we can say now."

Fine. Dial Samantha. She used to be Sam Hashimi, Middle-Eastern businessman. Then, last year, she underwent " surgical gender reassignment". So she looks completely different. The Saddam-Hussein- style black moustache had to go, and that was just for starters.

And she certainly sounds different. We chat about football. Her voice is high, sexy, but fragile, rather like Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds. "I used to play," she says. "When I lived in Baghdad, my parents always insisted on football. I was captain of the college team. I was a forward - I have lovely long legs, so I ran fast. My parents encouraged me because they were trying to make a man of me. However, they didn't succeed." We both laugh.

Does she still play? "Oh, no," she sighs. "Not since my transformation. My body is a woman's now. I have breasts, long nails, very long hair. It's all a bit restrictive. I don't have the testosterone necessary for such a muscular game. It's also psychological. I don't want to be accused of pursuing a masculine hobby."

It seems odd, then, that she wants to invest in a football club. Why Sheffield United?

"I fell in love with Sheffield United 10 years ago when I was introduced to the chairman. My plan is to attract one million Sheffield United supporters in Asia and the Middle East to watch the matches on subscription television."

A million! I didn't realise that Sheffield United was so popular in the Arab world. "Oh yes. The news in the Middle East always associates the club with me. And there is big interest in me since my transformation. In 1994, I took the team on holiday to the United Arab Emirates, and so there are lots of Sheffield United supporters now.

"I tried to bring the Iraqi national team to play Sheffield in 1990. Sheffield needed some good PR because they made that big supergun here. Two months later, the Gulf War happened, so that was that."

I can't quite believe what I'm hearing. I expect muffled giggles to break out from a bunch of friends crammed in a phone box. But Samantha is absolutely serious.

How are the fans reacting to her involvement, I wonder. "They just want the team to be successful." No problems then with the macho types tanked up with pints of Tetley's? "I hope not. I hope to say through you that they shouldn't feel threatened. Transsexualism isn't contagious."

And what does she think about the footballers. Does she find them sexy? "Some of them." Who, for example? "David Beckham. He's good-looking. As a woman, I find him attractive because he associates with the feminine side of himself. I don't like people like Vinnie Jones. He's so aggressive and masculine.

"Beckham is different. He is slightly effeminate. Like a woman, he is emotional and impulsive at times. When the press gave him a hard time after the World Cup, I really felt for him. Because he is pretty, he is the centre of attention. He faces the same sort of problems that I do because of the macho, masculine culture of the industry. But it's going to change."

And with that, Samantha Kane is off home. Once there, she says, she will probably slip into something more comfortable. Her replica Sheffield United kit.