Sunday Express Sport

Sunday, February 27, 2000

My Sporting Life

Uri Geller

CONTRARY to popular belief, I am not a fan of Reading FC, or, more precisely, am no longer a fan of Reading FC. I used to sundayexpresssportfollow them after I befriended the club chairman, John Madeiski, a few years after I moved to Reading. I began going into their dressing room before matches and psyching up the players. Back then, the team were doing really well.

They even made it to Wembley butlost narrowly to Bolton in the First Division play-off final. But a little over three years

Mind Games : Uri Geller works his magic with the Reading players

ago, I got a letter from Madeiski demanding that I paid for my match tickets. I was extremely hurt by this because, aside from my motivational work with the players, I had brought a good deal of publicity to the club. I’d got them on CNN, in front of a global audience of 300million people, and had made a documentary about the club for the BBC.

I was quite astounded to receive such a letter and when it became apparent that Madeiski would not relent, I walked away from the club. My powers, however, have since been vindicated because after my departure, the team started losing. They were relegated and are currently struggling in the Second Division. It’s either a coincidence or, more likely, I must have done something positive for them. I firmly believe that it’s only a matter of time before all football managers have sports psychologists working in their dressing rooms.

Positive thinking is such an important part of the game. If a player goes on to the pitch in a positive frame of mind, then it breeds confidence which triggers will-power – which in turn triggers stamina, agility and speed. I give motivational talks to top Premiership footballers all the time. You’d he amazed at the players who have been round my house. I do the same thing with Formula One drivers and leading tennis players. However, I can’t say who they are as there are ethics involved. Footballers, by nature, are superstitious people.

They cross themselves before they go on to the pitch, they carry good-luck charms and so on. When they come to see me, it is an extension of their belief culture and it would he terrible for them if I suddenly gave away their names. There is also a fear of ridicule – why else would Glenn Hoddle deny visiting me with Eileen Drewery? – so I must respect their confidence. I first discovered my powers could help sportsmen at the age of 12. My mother owned a little hotel in Cyprus and one day I bent a spoon in front of the manager of the local football team. He asked me if I could somehow help his players find the back of the net and I agreed to try. He took me into the dressing room and I began psyching them. They were at the bottom of the league at the time but with my help, they shot up the table and won the championship. I still have a picture from an old Greek-Cypriot newspaper of me running around the pitch with the team, holding aloft the trophy.

I also remember Munich in the Seventies, helping the German stars Gerd Muller and Sepp Maier. I even have pictures of me training with them. I’ve dealt with some very big-name footballers in my career. Although I don’t support a particular team, I’ve always loved the game. It’s actually a great relief for me that I don’t have any allegiances as my weekends are never spoiled by adverse results.

I’m fully neutralised from football-related depression. However, that may yet change as I’m in the market to buy a Second or Third Division club. I would not he surprised if I purchased a club within the next three years. It wouldn’t have to he in the South-east. It could he anywhere in England — so watch this space.

Uri Geller’s new book, Mind Medicine, is out now.

Interview : David Hytner


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