"I have filled the ball with my positive energy."
- Uri Geller in 1996
It appears that illusionist Uri Geller
's obsession with manipulating high profile soccer
matches with psychic powers
came into full force in 1996, with the European Championship. His most famous claim as a ball whisperer stems from this tournament: During the group stage match Scotland
, Geller was hovering over the stadium in his helicopter
(which, in my opinon, by itself is remarkable). After the match, Geller claimed that he had managed to move the ball with his psychic powers at a cruicial moment in the match - just before a penalty
was taken by Scotland's Gary McAllister, thus causing the player to miss the shot. Scotland ended up losing the match 2-0, and Geller received, according to his own claims, "11,000 items of hate mail" from Scottish fans.
2. Football's Coming Home (Literally)
The McAllister incident is the only soccer-related claim mentioned on Geller's Wikipedia
page, but a bit of further research shows that, in 1996, Geller was completely psyched up (pun intended) to help England win the tournament
, and he was in it from the get-go. The Euro 1996
marked the 30-year anniversary of England's only World Cup
win in 1966
which, just as the Euro 1996, took place on home soil. Hopes were up for England to finally win another big tournament.
But, as it turns out, hope alone was not good enough for Uri Geller. Before the tournament had started, the famous illusionist took it on himself to "energize" the famous orange football that was used in the successful 1966 World Cup final. The ball had only just returned to its home country from Germany after 30 years. Before England's Euro 1996 opening match against Switzerland, a picture of the ball was printed in the Daily Mirror, together with an article in which Geller urged England fans to "rub the picture and concentrate for two minutes on England winning."
"Just keep thinking 'They can win, they can win,' and you can help them to victory. You can even bend the ball towards the goal if you try hard enough."
The Mirror wrote: "The results could be sensational", which by itself was hard to imagine: Switzerland was far from a football superpower, England had the strongest team in a long time, and even a walkover would've hardly made history. The match ended 1-1.
3. Geller's Unconditional Fight for England
But that was hardly Geller's fault, because the England squad itself had not come in contact with the orange ball - and more importantly, with Geller, yet: "It would be good for the England team just to touch the ball, because I've touched it." The illusionist repeatedly reached out to the English team to set up a meeting
, but just before the second match against Scotland, the spoon bender
was defied by England's manager, who let the press
know that he was happy about any support for the team, but felt "this was one particular line that he was able to pass by."
It is surprising that this level of ignorance toward Geller's powers still did not lead the millionaire to abandon the English squad altogether. On the contrary - it seems that for him, it became clear that more serious measures were necessary for the match against Scotland. He announced: "I'll be using my powers to will the players to win." Stepping up his game, Geller decided he needed to be present during the match to influence the outcome directly - but not on an expensive stadium seat, like a mere mortal. Geller later elaborated on the advantages of the helicopter:
"The purpose of being in the helicopter is to be above the players and the people and be in the best possible position to channel my energy."
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the success of his powers was (literally) incredible, with McAllister missing his penalty, and England winning the match. The English team qualified for the knockout stage
, yet skepticism
was still showing its ugly face. Neither the Mc Allister incident, nor England having to face arch rivals
Germany in the semi-finals made the English coach
reconsider his position on the team meeting Geller and his energized ball. Once again, Geller took matters in his own hands - which, again, meant turning to the powers of the orange ball, and turning to the readers of the Daily Mirror
Minutes before the German squad started their training session at Wembley stadium on the eve of the semi-final, Mirror reporters witnessed Geller gracing the pitch with his presence. In one hand he clasped an England shirt, in the other hand he held the orange ball. It was the first time the ball returned to Wembley after 30 years, just in time for the showdown that was about to take place at the same location the very next day. Since he was not allowed to meet the English team, Geller had decided to go the other way, and negatively influence Germany instead.
"I am yards from the German team. I am psyching them out."
This time, the Daily Mirror printed a picture of Geller next to the orange ball. The psychic's instructions were clear: "Every Mirror reader seeing my picture and the ball should place their hands upon it and repeat the words 'England win, England win - England won, England won'." It is not documented whether Geller used the helicopter again, but according to him, "the power" was with the English squad. In the match following the next day, England was kicked out of the tournament after losing the penalty shootout against Germany.
Information and quotes taken from various newspaper articles via thefreelibrary.com.