Brian Viner: Dangerous cult of the celebrity football fan

'Paul's grievance is not so much that Chris de Burgh supports Liverpool, but that Liverpool supports Chris de Burgh'
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A few weeks ago this column invited you to submit nominations for the most embarrassing celebrity fan of whatever football team you support. I have had some truly weird and wonderful entries, the weirdest from Gary John-Baptiste of Walthamstow, who submitted evidence to suggest that Shoko Asahara, egomaniacal leader of the nasty Aum Shinrikyo cult which in 1995 released deadly sarin gas on the Tokyo underground, killing 12 people, was a fan of Mansfield Town.

His evidence would not necessarily stand up in a court of law.

Apparently, while teaching in Asahara's home town of Yatsushiro some years ago, Gary ran a "Welcome to Nottinghamshire" stall on the town's culture day. He displayed a good deal of Mansfield Town regalia along with the obligatory Robin Hood hats, whereupon the locals decided to gather the Mansfield cause to their collective bosom.

Consequently, Gary thinks it unlikely that anyone living in Yatsushiro at that time, including Asahara, could have been anything other than a Stags fan. And that seems good enough for the prize of a bottle of champagne.

But my thanks to all who entered, from the Crystal Palace fan who has never been terribly comfortable knowing that he shares his allegiance with Nookie Bear, to the Hull City fan in similar straits complaining that his club's most celebrated fan is Basil Brush, to the Liverpool fan Paul Wood who is sick to death of Chris de Burgh.

Paul's grievance is not so much that de Burgh supports Liverpool, but that Liverpool supports de Burgh. Or at any rate the man in charge of the Anfield public address system does. Last season, I'm told, de Burgh's songs "Lady in Red" and "Patricia the Stripper" blared relentlessly through the tannoy. "God, how we suffered," lamented Paul.

Still, it could be worse. I also heard from my old friend and fellow Everton fan Mark Tallentire, who has somehow pieced together some fragments of fact and shards of supposition which indicate that Adolf Hitler might at some stage have visited Goodison Park.

Apparently, it is thought that Hitler briefly visited Liverpool in 1927-28, the season Everton won the championship. Given Hitler's affection for football, and in particular the German club Schalke, Mark reckons it more than likely that he would have wanted to watch the great Dixie Dean in his pomp. But I'm not sure I want to go much further down that road of enquiry. Everton have enough problems with racist "supporters" without dragging Hitler into the fray.

And I'm already quite embarrassed enough that the former scourge of the Labour party, Derek Hatton, is one of us.

Anyway, if you've got nothing better to do over Christmas, I'd be delighted to receive more nominations for most embarrassing famous fan, and to print your suggestions.

There are, of course, any number of contenders for most embarrassing player, not least Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate. But it's those celebrity fans we're after. Are there any Millwall fans out there thoroughly embarrassed by Danny Baker? Are there any Chelsea fans not embarrassed by David Mellor? Or any Sheffield Wednesday followers weary of the splutterings of Roy Hattersley?

Actually, while we're on the subject of clapped-out politicians, I have had several e-mails from Plymouth Argyle supporters not to bury their most famous fan Michael Foot, but to praise him.

"I don't have a nomination for most embarrassing celebrity fan but for most admirable," wrote Stephen Morrison. "Michael Foot has been a fan of Argyle for decades but he has now put himself forward and invested in the club by joining the board of directors. There is some pride to be had from having a legendary socialist on the board of your club, and it is a wonderful thing to see him, at an advanced age, make his way into the directors' box each week."

It also takes some doing, I'm sure you'll agree, to get Michael Foot, Nookie Bear, Adolf Hitler and Basil Brush into the same sports column, on Christmas Eve. But that's football for you, a game of endless fascination. Which brings me, at long last, to my predictions for 2002, cue widespread expulsion of baited breath.

I predict that Manchester United will overcome recent tribulations to win the Premier League, and that Sir Alex Ferguson's successor will be either Martin O'Neill or Gordon Lee.

And I predict that England will draw with both Argentina and Sweden but beat Nigeria in the opening phase of the World Cup, qualifying for the next round only to be knocked out by France, 2-1, with Thierry Henry scoring two late goals in reply to a David Unsworth penalty. Of course I'm perfectly willing to accept that I might be wrong, and that Henry might not make the French World Cup squad.

Whatever, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year, with all the right results.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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