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Al Fayed defends Michael Jackson statue at soccer stadium

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
Fulham FC chairman Mohammed Al Fayed unveils the statue outside the club's London stadium.
Fulham FC chairman Mohammed Al Fayed unveils the statue outside the club's London stadium.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fulham FC chairman Mohammed Al Fayed was a close friend of Michael Jackson
  • Statue was originally intended for Harrods department store until Al Fayed sold it
  • Al Fayed unveiled bronze statue at Harrods featuring Princess Diana and his son Dodi in 2005
  • Both killed in a 1997 Paris car crash which Al Fayed claimed was part of conspiracy

London (CNN) -- The owner of an English Premier League football club has told supporters they can "go to hell" if they object to a newly erected statue of Michael Jackson outside the club's stadium.

Fulham FC chairman Mohammed Al Fayed, a friend of Jackson, reportedly commissioned the statue after the singer's death in 2009 -- and originally intended to put it on display at Harrods before he sold the west London department store last year.

The Egyptian-born businessman instead chose to install the statue depicting Jackson in a typical pose outside the club's Craven Cottage stadium on the banks of the River Thames, leaving many fans bemused and questioning its relevance.

"He has every right to erect it if he wishes but you'd have thought that he'd understand that those of us who've supported the football club for so long regard it as inappropriate and ridiculous," wrote Holders on Fulham FC fan site Cottage Corner.

If they don't understand and don't believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea.
--Mohammed Al Fayed
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Ian The Great wrote: "The statue is disrespectful, the fans weren't consulted about it at all. If we were, there's no way we would have voted for it. Al Fayed has done amazing things for the club but this is ridiculous."

Other fans wondered whether it was a practical joke. "Is the Michael Jackson statue at the Fulham ground NOT an April Fools joke then? It still seems to be there," Lutterov posted on Twitter.

But Al Fayed, who hosted Jackson at one game against Wigan in 1999, remained defiant and lashed out at accusations that the memorial is bizarre.

"Why is it bizarre?" he asked reporters Sunday, as the statue was unveiled ahead of Fulham's league match with Blackpool.

"Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell. I don't want them to be fans. If they don't understand and don't believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else."

The Fulham chief received the backing of visiting Blackpool manager Ian Holloway. "Love or loathe him Jacko is one of those iconic figures," he was quoted by Britain's Press Association as saying. "'I know some fans are grumbling about the statue but I think it is terrific. He was a very special bloke and one of a handful of people I am proud to have been on the planet at the same time as."

This isn't the first time al Fayed has memorialized people with statues. In 2005, he unveiled a bronze statue inside the Harrods store featuring Princess Diana and his son, Dodi Fayed. Titled "Innocent Victims," the statue was meant to depict the pair in eternal happiness together, al Fayed said at the time.

Dodi Fayed and Diana died in 1997 when the car they were riding in crashed in a Paris tunnel as they were pursued by paparazzi.

Al Fayed has long claimed that the British government had a hand in the crash, despite the coroner who lead the 2008 inquest into the death of Princess Diana stating there was "no evidence" that the British secret service -- or any other government agency -- had anything to do with the incident.

 
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