Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Fulham Gives 'King of Pop' -- Glove and All -- the Heave-Ho

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Fulham Gives 'King of Pop' -- Glove and All -- the Heave-Ho

Article excerpt

Never taken to the hearts of Fulham fans, a statue of the pop singer Michael Jackson was hauled away on Wednesday, encased in bubble pack.

For decades, Michael Jackson was known for his elaborate entrances and glittery stage shows.

On Wednesday, the King of Pop was hauled away in bubble pack by four burly stonemasons.

It was an unceremonious end to his controversial run of nearly three years at Fulham F.C.'s stadium, Craven Cottage, the historic ground that is the Wrigley Field of English soccer. After 90 minutes of chiseling, sawing and hacking, poof, Jackson left the building horizontally on the back of a truck.

His departure was ordered by the club's new owner, Shad Khan, who said, "Our supporters' views on the statue have been made clear," The Associated Press reported.

Since April 2011, Jackson's nearly eight-foot, or 2.44 meters, tall facsimile made of Jesmonite stood facing the Thames behind the home stands. A large sign that read "Michael Jackson The Tribute" hung next the singer, who stood atop two tons of black granite dressed in a sequined jacket, an ammunition belt and a glove on his right hand.

His presence was incongruous in the extreme. Mohamed Al-Fayed, the team's eccentric former owner who called Jackson a friend, spent about Pounds 50,000, or $80,000, to build and install the statue even though the pop singer seemed to care little about soccer and attended only one Fulham match.

Fulham's fans loved Fayed, who spent lavishly to lift the club's fortunes. But they helped pay for some of the cost of a tasteful and far more expensive bronze statue of Johnny Haynes, perhaps the team's greatest player, that stands at the other end of the stadium.

While the pop singer's fans traveled from far and wide to pay their respects, in the intensely masculine world of British soccer, the homage to Jackson was a joke.

"It's rubbish," said Andy Hunt, a longtime fan who stood near the statue before the game on Tuesday against Everton, drinking beer with a friend. "I don't object to the person. If it was in bronze, maybe. But it's tacky."

Fayed, who bought Fulham in 1997, a few months before his son, Dodi, died in a car crash with Princess Diana, was unrepentant. …

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