This Omid Djalili interview first appeared in the June 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe today and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door (opens in new tab).
First game you ever attended?
Chelsea 1-3 West Ham in September 1972.
Who was your childhood hero and did you ever meet them?
Paul Canoville, Kerry Dixon, Pat Nevin. Lovely men, who were all very neat in their physical appearance.
Finest moment as a player?
Modesty forbids me telling you it was the time I scored against RoboKeeper. The computerised robotic goalkeeper saved 16 and 20 attempts respectively from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. I scored against it on my first go, live on television, but I haven’t spoken, or written, about it since and never will.
What do you like most about going to a match?
Eating pies with middle-aged men.
How has watching football changed for you since you were a kid?
I’ve noticed that a lot more people use deodorant these days.
Who from your club’s past would you bring back for your current side?
Micky Droy. Someone who refused to be bullied, whose warrior spirit lifted his team-mates. Ditto Diego Costa.
Who has or had the hardest shot you’ve ever seen?
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, from about 15 yards at a Cobham training session near the end of the 2014/15 season. Petr Cech dived out of the way as the ball whizzed over the bar for another 40 yards, staying mostly horizontal.
Which player do you like even though they never played for your club?
Gheorghe Hagi. Clever, technical player who was the next best thing to Maradona. His goal against Colombia at USA 94 was one of the best you’ll ever see. He can also play jazz flute, which surprised me.
Favourite club badge that isn’t your own?
Stoke City. They've just updated it. It used to be red and white stripes with a knot and kiln – now it’s a disused factory with an old-aged pensioner giving the finger to an EU flag.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever watched a game?
A hotel bar in Spain as Chelsea drew 1-1 with Barcelona in the 2017/18 Champions League last-16. I was thrown out for celebrating Willian’s goal. Proud moment. I watched the rest of the game wearing a Coventry shirt given to me by the concierge.
Favourite football book?
Paul Canoville’s Black and Blue. Also John Terry’s A Life Without Shorts On. Mainly hidden camera holiday snaps of John Terry semi-nude. Not so much a published book, more a personal scrapbook. But he signed it for me.
What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve ever seen or heard at a game?
About 20 seconds into the minute’s silence for the Japanese tsunami disaster in 2011, Copenhagen fans were still making noise despite being shushed before a Champions League group stage game. From the Matthew Harding stand came a shout, “Shut up you c**ts!”, which set off a huge roar of laughter all around the stadium.
What’s the best food you’ve ever had at a game?
Bratwurst in Berlin at the 2006 World Cup Final. In Germany, if you say, “Can
I have a hot dog?” they will say, “We don’t do hot dogs”. If you figure it out and say, “Can I have Bratwurst?” they will then give you a hot dog, but a hot dog that is so out of this world that you can’t call it a hot dog. Even though it clearly is a hot dog.
Tell us something about one of your players or managers we won’t know.
Rumour has it Micky Droy had a huge penis and did elaborate puppetry with it to amuse team-mates in the dressing room after games during the 1970s. We’re missing that sense of fun these days. Plus it would work well in a multilingual dressing room.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard or read from a player or manager?
Antonio Conte said, “The noble man never loses his child-like heart.” When
I was playing in a charity match, Jose Mourinho once said if I didn’t move back a couple of yards, I’d be outside the permitted perimeter of the court restraining order and he’d definitely call the police on me this time. That was life-changing advice.
What’s the most important piece of memorabilia that you have or wish you still had?
I don’t really know how to answer this question without incriminating myself, but Ken Bates might still be missing an early-90s sheepskin coat.
Where’s the strangest or best place you’ve ever met a player?
I met Fabio Capello in a public toilet.
If you could drop yourself into your all-time team, who would you be playing alongside?
The Euro 88 England team alongside Robson, Hoddle and Waddle. I’d be the missing link and we might at least draw one game. We would’ve been known as Robson, Hoddle, Waddle and Wobble.
N’Golo Kante. Doesn’t say anything so no need for normal human interaction.
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Omid Djalili is an actor and comedian, best known for his work as a stand-up, and has regularly appeared on TV comedy panel shows. As an actor, he starred in films such as The Infidel, but has also had roles in blockbusters from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Sex and the City 2, and Notting Hill, to The World Is Not Enough, Mean Machine and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
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