The day Michael Jackson, Uri Geller and David Blaine pitched up at Exeter City FC | Music | guardian.co.uk
The day Michael Jackson, Uri Geller and David Blaine pitched up at Exeter City FC
As travelling circus troupes go, the motley collective that pulled into Exeter railway station on 14 June 2002 takes some beating. It had been assembled by notorious cutlery-bothering psychic Uri Geller, then co-chairman of the local football club, Exeter City, and boasted some stellar names: the hungry, box-dwelling, pole-balancer David Blaine; the soul diva Patti Boulaye; and, at the top of the bill, the world-famous Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.
They were to star at an event that Geller was staging to raise money for the cash-strapped City. Jacko agreed to help out his friend on the condition that the Exeter chairman brought along some "sick kids from hospitals" and gave half of the money raised to "children with Aids". Geller shook on it, and so, after Boulaye belted out a gospel number and Blaine shuffled a pack of cards with laboured insouciance, Jackson took to a pitchside stage at City's dilapidated St James Park ground.
"Hello to you wonderful people of Exeter," he began, so timidly it would make his faltering oratory in the Martin Bashir interviews sound like Nixon taking on Frost. "We come here to support children with Aids," he went on, "and help the people of Africa find a solution against the spread of HIV." Then, with the unimpeachable logic of a man who had just vowed to stamp out a pandemic, he threw in an afterthought for good measure: "And malaria!"
With a 10,000-strong crowd cheering him on, Jackson delivered his piece de resistance. Ordering everyone in the ground to hold each hands, he simpered: "I mean it! Right now! Go ahead! Don't be shy. Do it! Do it! Now, tell the person next to you that you care for them. Tell them that you love them. This is what makes the difference! Together we can make a change of the world. Together we can help to stop racism. Together we can help to stop prejudice. We can help the world live without fear. It's our only hope! Without hope we are lost! I see Israel!!! I see Spain!"
It was at this point that someone asked Jackson whether England would give Denmark a right old shoeing in the second round of the World Cup the following day. "England is gonna win, yeah?" said a giggling Jacko.
And, of course, he was right: England ran out 3-0 winners. Which means that, with a 100% success rate, Michael Jackson was – and is likely to be for all time – the greatest football pundit the world has ever known.