Saturday 1 December 2012
Rebecca Tyrrel: Omar Sharif is an atypical Hull City fan. Few regulars at the KC Stadium speak seven languages
Who knew that Omar Sharif is a "crazy fan" of Hull City football club? Two years ago, the University of Hull recognised his devotion to the Tigers (the Championship plays in black-and-orange striped shirts) by awarding him an honorary degree. And what a day it was for the Oscar nominee.
"Waggy! Waggy!" cried the famously suave Egyptian on learning of the presence of Ken Wagstaff, whom his fellow Hull fans voted their player of the 20th century. "He's here! He's here!!" Here was later, after the University event at the KC Stadium. The gap-toothed filmic legend hadn't been so close to a heart attack since the fictional one he suffered while chasing Julie Christie at the end of Doctor Zhivago. If he hadn't already rid himself of his mortar-board, his levity might well have dislodged it. "I can't believe it! For 40 years Tom has talked to me about you…" gushed Omar.
Tom is Sharif's fellow Academy Award nominee, Tom Courtenay, who joined him for the Waggy meeting. When they shared a London flat in the early 1960s, the Hull-born and bred Courtenay turned Omar into a Tigers fan and, oh how they worshipped Waggy.
By and large, Sharif cuts an atypical football fan. Few regulars at the KC Stadium speak seven languages, however useful it must be to have a choice when chanting, "The referee's a wanker".
Fewer still have starred with Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) and Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia). The closest Sharif has come to capturing the ethos of the terraces was last year at a Qatari film festival, when he apparently slapped a pushy female fan – and even then he had the good grace to apologise. "I have a small remembrance of this," he said later.
Luckily, the 80-year-old's remembrances of playing football are more detailed. "I was a fat little boy," he recalls, "and my mother said: 'The only thing is to put him in an English boarding school. The food will be so horrible that he'll lose his weight'. Yes! Yes! I liked football very much. I played it quite well. I was a back, a slave. We didn't move a lot."
He moves about a bit more these days. He is off to Saigon soon to watch his racehorse run, and while Sharif has not been back to Hull since collecting his degree, it can only be a matter of time before he gives in to the lure of his beloved Waggy.
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