Michael Jackson, The King of Pop appeared on stage to deliver a speech to thousands of fans inside Exeter City’s St James Park stadium back in June 2002 as a favour to friend Uri Geller
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It was arguably one of the most random visits involving an English football club.
Back on June 14, 2002, ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson paid a visit to the home of Exeter City.
His appearance was a favour to his friend Uri Geller, the TV magician who was co-chairman of the club at the time.
The appearance was designed to bring in much-needed funds for the struggling club and Jackson agreed, as long as some “sick kids from hospitals” could come along with him.
The train journey that transported Jackson from Paddington station was said to have had more than 200 fans on it who each paid £100 just to be on the same train as the megastar.
Michael Jackson’s visit to Exeter drew a huge crowd
He was then mobbed by a throng of fans upon his arrival in the city.
He arrived at Exeter’s modest St James’ Park in a vintage car, before taking to the stage to a backdrop of huge applause and screams.
“Hello to you wonderful people of Exeter,” he proclaimed to the crowd.
“We come here to support children with Aids … and help the people of Africa find a solution against the spread of HIV.”
Michael Jackson on stage at Exeter’s St James Park in 2002
He then went on a long speech, asking those in attendance to hold hands with the person next to them, spoke about wars and even gave his verdict on England’s chances in a World Cup game that weekend.
He added: “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!”
In what was a surreal afternoon, magician David Blaine also appeared on stage to perform some tricks but fans were clearly only interested in one man.
Of course, Jackson’s association with football extends further than his cameo in Devon.
Back in April 1999, then Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed persuaded Jackson to take in a Third Division game at home to Wigan Athletic.
After the game Jackson gave an interview to the Mirror , where he described Fayed as “very wise and creative, talented and kind-hearted, very giving.”
Former Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed at the unveiling of the Michael Jackson statue in 2011
The feeling was obviously mutual, as shown when Al-Fayed unveiled a sculpture of Jackson outside Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground in 2011. It was removed two years later.
As for the Grecians, unfortunately Jackson’s visit failed to inspire them to new heights.
They ended up being relegated out of the Football League in 2002-03, after an 83-year stay. After five years in non-league they returned to the EFL, rising to League One for three seasons before returning to their current level in the fourth tier.
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