Start Believing: Gunners gaffe, fanatical following & a peculiar hero

Ill-judged bets, passionate support and astonishing devotion feature in the latest in our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief

“I’ll put my house on them winning. Oh!”

Arsenal-mad Ugandan fan Henry Dhabasani was left homeless after betting his house on the result of the Gunners match at Old Trafford in November last year with United fan Rashid Yiga. The stakes were high. In return Yiga had staked his new car and his wife, confident of a United win. Thanks to Robin van Persie’s winner, Dhabasani, who fainted at the end of the game as reality sank in, was turfed out of his house on the following Monday after several United fans stormed his home and evicted his family.

“Exeter City or my wife and kids? City, obviously.”

With an intriguing 1914 tour of South America in the offing, fanatical Exeter City supporter Martin Lambert decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime to follow his side to Argentina and Brazil, where they would play eight matches. Investing his life savings and borrowing money from his brothers, Lambert left his wife and children back home as he set off on an epic six-month adventure. When he eventually returned, his wife had taken the kids and headed up north. Sometimes you can love your team a little too much.

If at first you don’t succeed…

If you don’t ask you don’t get. For one German football fanatic, it was more a case of if you don’t ask 30 times you don’t get. The fan was determined to get reclusive Socceroos skipper Peter Wilson to send him his team shirt from the 1974 World Cup, so “wrote to him over 30 times,” explained the fan, “but I never gave up hope that he’d respond.” Having pestered the defender for a number of years, the garment duly arrived, albeit with the badge ripped off, rendering the whole item worthless. Looking on the bright side, the bewildered supporter said: “At least I know he received my letters.”

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