Gary Lineker opens up on Gazza, Elton John...and the old woman who attacked him

Gary Lineker opens up on Gazza, Elton John…and the old woman who attacked him

Sport & Transfer News

Walking through Euston station in London, Gary Lineker felt a sharp shove in his back.

The man booted out of the World Cup in 1986 by Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal, turned to see who was getting touchy now.

And found that his assailant was a “little old lady” with a very foul mouth.

The woman, on her way to a march for far-right thug Tommy Robinson, launched into a tirade about Shamima Begum, the British teen stripped of her citizenship after becoming an Islamic State bride in Syria.

Gary says: “I hadn’t offered any comment whatsoever, and she just pushed me in the back and went, ‘F*** you. F***ing Lineker. You’d have her back, wouldn’t you?’.

Lineker was recently voted the candidate most likely to unify a divided Britain

“And I went, ‘Who? What? Why? Sorry?’ And then she just marched off.”

The England striker turned Match Of The Day host is no stranger to abuse online, but says the encounter earlier this year, when he was getting a train to Manchester, was “the only time I’ve ever had anything in my face”.

Gary, who has millions of Twitter followers, says: “I get a lot more hate than I’ve ever had in my life, but I get loads more love, too.

Grief

“I ignore the really abusive ones. When I bump into people on the Tube or in the street I don’t get any grief. Except for once. Apart from that, I get an unbelievable amount of respect.”

He earned that respect in his time as a footballer. In his career, he never once got a red or yellow card, a record that won him the 1990 FIFA Fair Play Award.

So no surprise that he still smarts at the injustice of Maradona’s Hand Of God goal during that quarter final against Argentina at the Mexico World Cup.

Gary says: “When Maradona handled the ball to score that first goal I just think the linesman saw it and I think that he choked. I could never prove it, but it’s just how I felt.”

Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal

The Bulgarian official in question, Bogdan Dochev, confirmed that view in his memoirs, which were published after his death in 2017. He said he had seen the incident, but chose to keep quiet as the referee, “hadn’t asked” him.

Gary, 58, who a year later was on the same team as Maradona at the Football League Centenary Match at Wembley, says: “That’s the first time I’ve heard that and I’m livid, although I feel quite glad that I was right. But really? If you saw it, just stick your flag up, man.”

Since capitalising on his social media popularity, initially to call out corruption at FIFA, then to support refugees and now to comment on Brexit , Gary admits he finds himself on the end of a barrage of abuse almost every time he posts an update.

And so this week the ex-Leicester, Everton , Barcelona and Spurs striker helped launch a campaign to report and block trolls.

Gary, who has 7.4 million Twitter followers, jokes: “I don’t really take much notice of the trolls. Except for Piers Morgan.”

He may have seven times as many Twitter followers as PM Boris Johnson , but Gary’s supporters, who recently voted the twice-divorced father-of-four the candidate most likely to unify a divided Britain, might be disappointed by his lack of political ambitions.

He says: “There is more chance of Big Ben toppling over in the next 10 minutes than me entering politics. I couldn’t be a politician.

“It’s just such a boring job, walking around shaking hands and pretending.

“I’m interested in politics, and express my views about things I feel quite strongly about, but there are a lot of aspects of politics that I have no interest in whatsoever.”

He says he has always been “the archetypal floating voter”, adding: “People think I’m a massive lefty snowflake, but I have always been kind of middle ground.”

He also has almost 10 times as many Twitter followers as Elton John, but Gary admits he was still star struck when the singer called out of the blue on the evening of May 2, 2016.

Gary was starstruck when Elton John phoned to congratulate him on his beloved Leicester City winning the Premier League

He says: “My beloved Leicester City had just won the Premier League title for the first time in their history and I saw this unknown +01 number come up on my phone.

“He just said, ‘I just wanted to congratulate you’.

“It was a, ‘wow’ moment and I was totally star struck, even though we had spoken a few times before.

“In fact, for a while we kept bumping into each other, once in a restaurant in LA, then on the beach in the South of France. Perhaps he’s stalking me.

“Or maybe I’m stalking him?”

Gary’s new book, Behind Closed Doors, co-written with Danny Baker

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Another bizarre celebrity encounter which Gary recalls in his new book Behind Closed Doors, co-written with his podcast colleague Danny Baker, happened while he was on holiday in Sardinia with his first wife Michelle.

Aware that a photographer was lurking nearby, Gary was seconds away from confronting the snapper when he realised the lens was actually trained on a long-haired man sitting nearby, who turned out to be the American rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

Gary says: “I actually had no idea who he was and he had no idea who I was, but Michelle recognised him. We all ended up going for dinner together.”

“It was probably the second most embarrassing incident of my whole career,” adds Gary, alluding to when he took his eye off the bowel and had an accident during a match at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

  • Behind Closed Doors by Gary Lineker and Danny Baker, £20




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