Look into my eyes
He made Lee Nogan score a hattrick, put Roberto Baggio off his World Cup Final penally and is on hand for Terry Venables. But can spoonbending supreme Uri Geller help Goal find the net?
Never mind contorted cutlery and keys, ten minutes into a session with Uri Geller and he’s already busy bending Goal’s ear. “You’ve got to visualise yourself scoring,” he urges. “Build a picture in your mind, see the event, the surroundings and focus on yourself hitting a shot into the net. Positive thinking. Positive. Positive. Believe you’re going to score, and it’ll happen.”
As a striker for a Sunday League team, I’m currently in need of all the help I can get. It’s a desperate last throw of the dice, but Uri’s track record is pretty good. Tired of bending spoons, the psychic phenomenon started focusing his powers on Reading FC last season. They enjoyed the best year in their history, reaching the playoff finals at Wembley, only missing out on the Premiership courtesy of a missed penalty.
This year, Uri concentrated on their cup performances resulting in Reading enjoying their best FA Cup run for years, culminating in a hometie against Manchester United.
“I’m just a small contributor,” he shrugs. “My role is to put the players into a positive frame of mind, to give them that feelgood factor and make them believe in themselves. Prior to the Man United game, I told our players not to be overawed by their stars. ‘They’re human like you’ I told them.’They pee just like you. Imagine Cantona and Giggs having a piss. They don’t piss wine’. It’s important to get things like that into perspective.”
So what went wrong during the game?
“We started off really well. If we’d have kept that up, we’d have won. No question. But we slackened off and Man United were just too good in the end.”
One of Geller’s more outlandish claims is that he helped contribute to Baggio’s World Cup Final penalty miss. “The Brazilians are great believers in mental telepathy. So there’s myself and millions of Brazilians transmitting negative thoughts to the great Baggio. And what happens? He steps up, hits the ball and the ball goes out of control. That’s the power of the mind, I’m convinced it did the trick. I’ve seen it over and over. If enough people concentrate, you can easily confuse a player.” A powerful argument, as anyone who’s seen Coventry’s backfour in action will agree.
“Let me demonstrate the power of telepathy to you,” he says suddenly. He asks me to draw a simple picture of anything I like. As he covers his eyes, I draw a goal with a ball in the top righthand corner. Without seeing the drawing, he asks me to think of the outline in my mind while he does a drawing of his own. The result is an almost identical sketch except for the ball which is in the middle of the goal. Impressive, but like a freekick perfectionist, the boy Uri’s not happy with his placing of the ball. “Draw something else, but keep it simple,” he instructs. Keeping it ridiculously simple, I draw a picture of Jimmy Hill. “Hmm. This is tricky,” says Uri, concentrating hard. “It’s a face, but it’s a weird sort of shape.” He shows me his finished sketch. It’s unerringly accurate.
Buoyed by his success, Uri then shows me a glass chair in his sitting room. “This is the chair that Lee Hogan sat in when the players came to my house. When I saw Lee in it, I knew he was going to be lucky. I told him so and the very next game, he scored a hattrick.”
As Uri heads out of the room, I take a quick perch on the magic throne hoping that it’s powers will indeed rub off on me. Who knows, perhaps I’ll stick one in with my arse come Sunday morning. A phone call to Reading striker Lee Hogan that evening confirms Uri’s story. “It was a weirdlooking chair,” recalls Lee. “He made me sit in it and yeah, I did score a hattrick afterwards, against Southend. He’s definitely got something, he’s been a real help to a lot of the lads getting us all to think positively. There’s no doubt he’s a great motivator, you can’t argue with what he says.”
But with Reading facing a fierce relegation battle, surely he must be tempted to send negative thoughts to the opposition? Get their centreforward sent off, make their keeper drop a clanger. “l never want to hurt anyone with my powers or do really negative things. But I do project psychic barriers around our goalposts. I visualise a barrier to stop the ball going in our net. I do that a lot and it really works. I’ve seen the ball fly off at odd angles, people mixkick in front of goal.
“If you concentrate hard enough, you can make these things happen. I always know when we’re going to score a goal.
Against Oldham on Saturday I stood up and said to the spectators around me, ‘l’m feeling positive, it’s going to happen’. Thirty seconds later, we scored. Then it happens again. I say to them, ‘Hang on, wait, we are going to score again’. Fifteen seconds later we score. You should have seen their faces, it was incredible. Of course it works the other way, too. I know when we are going to lose, but I never say anything.”
Aside from helping Reading, would Uri be willing to lend his services to Terry Venables?
“I never push myself or my services. I don’t go looking for work but if Terry came to me, then of course I’d be more than willing to help England’s cause in whatever way I could.”
For the moment though, Uri’s happy to do what he can to boost my flagging morale. “Use plenty of visualisation, don’t just use your legs and muscles, use your mind and subconscious, too. Throughout the game be positive, convince yourself you will score. And don’t worry, I’ll be thinking of you.”
Despite following Uri’s advice to the letter in our final match of the season we were 10 down going into the final minute and I hadn’t had a sniff all game. Suddenly a cross comes in from the right. I’m unmarked on the edge the penalty area, I steady myself, connect perfectly and watch as the bail rockets into the top righthand corner of the adjacent pitch. The final whistle blows and my barren run is destined to stretch into next season.
Thinking that I must have missed a key piece of Uri’s advice, I return home and rerun the tape of our interview only to discover that, mysteriously, it’s been wiped clean. The tape is as blank as our score sheet.
Now that’s what you call weird.
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