Hate him or love him, Osama bin Laden was one of Arsenal FC's most die-hard fans, but probably the only one that the club disowned. But now, happily, he's no more.
Well, if you haven’t heard that Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most feared and dreaded terrorist leader is dead, then you probably live in a cage somewhere and you need to be hunted down as well. The Al-Qaeda founder and main financier was shot dead by US forces at a luxurious Mansion in Pakistan’s Abbottabad town.
Enough of that for a breaking news story and getting back to our football. The list of Celebrity Arsenal fans could go on and on and includes the likes of Fidel Castro, Piers Morgan, Prince Harry, The Queen and… Osama bin Laden. Yep. The world’s once most wanted terrorist became smitten with the North London club back in the 1990s when he was staying in Britain. And since then, the Al-Qaeda leader has not only been an active ‘gunner’ in the battlefield, but a Gooner as well. The world's greatest hide and seek champion even bought a replica gunners jersey for his son from the gift shop and attended four European-Cup Winners Cup matches at Highbury, rubbing shoulders with Arsenal fans in the famous Clock End section of the stadium.
The revelation of Osama’s love for Wenger’s team came about after the 9-11 attack on the US’s Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, thanks to Adam Robinson's Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of a Terrorist publication.
The son of Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, known for his prowess in throwing missiles and providing arsenals for attack against civilians and not for kicking a ball, became a "gooner" during a three-month visit to London in 1994. This was only two years before Arsene Wenger took up the reigns at Highbury (Arsenal’s former stadium), and four years before Bin Laden orchestrated the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Then here comes the coincidences.
The 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in the cities of Dar es Salaam and Nairobi brought the Al-Qaeda chief to the attention of the US public for the first time, and saw the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation placing him on US’s Ten Most Wanted list. Coincidentally, this was the same period (97/98) that Arsène Wenger had his first full season as manager of Arsenal. He led the club to their first league title since 1991. Arsenal also beat Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley stadium to clinch the FA Cup. The Gunners also went on to win the FA Charity Shield on 9 August 1998 at Wembley, just two days before the East African bombings. Curious to know who they beat? Archrivals Manchester United were the victims as they suffered a 3-0 thumping, thanks to goals by Marc Overmars, Christopher Wreh and Nicolas Anelka.
Then came the September 11, 2001 attacks. This was the deadliest attack that Osama had organized and who to target but the common enemy, America. According to Wikipedia, the attacks involved the hijacking of four commercial passenger aircraft, the subsequent destruction of those planes and the World Trade Center in New York City, severe damage to The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the deaths of 2,974 people and the nineteen hijackers.
On the football side, Arsenal again won the Premier League in the 2001/02 season. The matches kicked off from 18 August 2001, just 24 days before Osama’s attacks. The Gunners also won the FA Cup after a 2-0 win over London rivals Chelsea, with Ray Parlour and Fredrik Ljungberg on the scorecard. It was another domestic double for Arsenal.
But it was until 2004 that Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Arsenal were also crowned 2003/04 English Premier League champions as they went through the season unbeaten. From then, Osama didn’t launch any major attacks and Arsenal have only won one title, the 2005 FA Cup.
Then fast forward to 2011 and one of Arsenal’s most high-profile fans is gunned down. But before that, Arsenal faced Manchester United on Sunday evening knowing very well that nothing less than a victory could breathe life into their slim Premier league title hopes. The Gunners went into the game with an inferior record against Alex Ferguson’s men. Wenger’s ‘kids’ had only beaten United once in their last 10 matches, and that came in November 8 2008.
A rare Aaron Ramsey goal in the 56th minute settled the match and left United vulnerable to losing the title to Chelsea. As the Gunners were celebrating this victory, news trickled in that a die-hard fan, Osama, had been gunned down by US troops. Could this be good or bad news for the London club?
If you look at the above ‘coincidences’ (for want of a better word), you don’t fail to wonder how Bin Laden’s - codenamed Geronimo by US officials – attacks coincide with Arsenal’s success or lack of it.
One thing for sure is that his atrocities have been some ‘blessing’ in disguise for his beloved Arsenal. His death however robs the 13 time Premier League and 10 time FA Cup winners a high-profile fan, but who was not a club’s favourite.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!
And That's thesteifmastertake!!