Games People Play: Mohamed Al Fayed, 65, Owner of Harrods

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The Independent Culture
I WILL talk to you about football. I started playing when I was 10 years old, and at 14 I owned a junior club in Alexandria. I have a photograph of the team: I was the captain, playing centre forward. I'm a good player, but I can't run any more; I am too old, although I try from time to time.

Football is exciting. It is a fantastic spectacle seeing people with talent working as a team, especially if you are watching master players like those at Manchester and Liverpool. And that is what I am trying to have - my own master players - which is why I bought Fulham Football Club.

It is an old institution; one of the greatest clubs, which had graduated to major players like George Best and Bobby Moore, was Premier League and then went downhill. And as you know, I bought Harrods, which had gone downhill with horrible plastic and glass fibre everywhere. Now it is the greatest store in the world, and Fulham is the same: gone downhill, and we're going to make it the greatest club in the world again.

We have Kevin Keegan as manager. We understand each other and I trust him. Whatever is required, being the manager or being the cleaner, he doesn't mind doing it if it will end up bringing the club back.

Egyptians are mad about football. Forty or 50 years ago, we had major Premier League clubs, but not now. They don't encourage the game. There are only old people like me, who are passionate about it. The real fans are gone. Now they just smoke the hubble-bubble, play backgammon and watch belly-dancing.

Fulham FC official strip,

T-shirts, umbrellas, teddy bears and `hot dogs also, if you want' are available from the supporters' shop at 959-961 Fulham Road, London SW6 (0171-736 6071)