From Alex de Souza to Zinedine Zidane – an incomplete history of sport’s strangest statues

Zidane AP 300x225 From Alex de Souza to Zinedine Zidane – an incomplete history of sport’s strangest statues


Last week a 16ft bronze statue by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed was unveiled outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The artwork, entitled Headbutt commemorates the moment when French footballer Zinedine Zidane infamously lost his cool, hitting Italy’s Marco Materazzi square in the chest with his head, during the 2006 World Cup final.

If it seems unconventional for a statue to commemorate that moment of madness, which served as the inglorious end to the career of a footballing great, then that is entirely the point.

The statue is part of an exhibition and organiser Alain Michaud said: “This statue goes against the tradition of making statues in honour of certain victories. It is an ode to defeat.”

However things do not always go to plan with more ‘traditional’ statues, as Turkish football club Fenerbahçe discovered this week. Last month they unveiled a statue of their Brazilian captain, Alex de Souza, in honour of the devoted service he had given to the club during his nine years there. It was a gesture of appreciation for the 242 games and 137 goals he had given the club, and one that even moved the midfielder to tears at its unveiling.

Unfortunately for the adoring fans who had funded the construction of the statue, less than two weeks later Alex had left the club, terminating his contract following a dispute with the club’s manager. Some might argue that in the cynical world of modern football, building statues of current players is an accident waiting to happen. Although in truth, it seems there is no more safety in honouring heroes of the past, as Southampton found in 2007.

There can be few men more deserving of a statue at Southampton, than Ted Bates. A Saints player for ten years, stretching either side of the Second World War and then manager for a further 18, the nickname ‘Mr Southampton’ was well deserved. Sadly when his £112,000 statue was unveiled at the club, it was met with horror by fans, rightly appalled that it was freakishly out of proportion and looked nothing like Bates but instead bore an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Krankie. A week later the statue was torn down and eventually, at a further cost of £120,00, it was replaced with one that met the fans’ approval.

It has to be said that bad statues are by no means limited to football. The life-size bronze version of Kelly Holmes, unveiled in her home town of Pembury in Kent this September, it turned out looking more like Jessica Ennis than the double gold medal winner.

While Andy Murray, along with several other leading tennis players, has been immortalised in Shanghai as a terracotta warrior, much to the Scot’s bemusement.

However in the contest for the strangest ever sporting statue, there can only be one winner. Despite being outside Craven Cottage, the statue does not commemorate a former Fulham great or even a sports star of any kind. In fact the man it depicts only visited the ground once in 1999 and was not known to be a football aficionado.

This however was not a problem for Fulham’s eccentric owner, Mohamed al Fayad, who decided that the ground was the perfect place for a 7ft 6in statue of former pop star Michael Jackson. Looking like a giant cake decoration, the garish effigy to ‘The King of Pop’ which is believed to have cost around £100,000, stands at the Hammersmith end of the ground. While the club’s owner is delighted with the statue it is not a sentiment shared by many of the Fulham fans.

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  • Mustafa Kara

    Correction: The statue of Alex was not unveiled by club fenerbahce. It was the fans of fenerbahce who raised the money without asking the club of support to unveil the statue of Alex. They showed the appreciation of 8 years of service, 896 games, 363 goals and 254 assists.

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