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Former footballer Pat Nevin told about the time he came face to face with evil dictator Saddam Hussein on a mid-season trip to Iraq.
Nevin and his Chelsea teammates travelled to the Middle East country during the 1980s during a trip organised by eccentric former Blues chairman Ken Bates.
The trip took place years before the first Gulf War when Hussein was a little known figure in the UK and Nevin revealed the players were forced to wait around for an hour before kicking off an exhibition match with the despot late taking his seat in the stand.
Former Scotland international Nevin, who also enjoyed stints at Everton and Tranmere, said: "I bet you less than 0.1% of the population in Britain had heard of him. I was quite political but hadn’t heard of him.
"It was a weird and wonderful trip and quite typical of Ken Bates.
"Next year we had a new sponsor called Gulf Air. I can remember having to wait an hour on the pitch to start the game.
"We didn’t know who we were waiting for but it turned out to be him. He didn’t come on to the pitch. We just had to wait until he came into the stand and sat in his big fancy seat.
“Afterwards we got a big trophy. We had to go up and meet him.
"I can’t remember looking in his eyes because we had no idea who he was. We had to shake the hand of dignitaries and his son. I’d like to go back to that day and look at him. It’s one of those moments in my life."
Hussein would go on to be public enemy number one with the total number of Iraqis killed by the security services in purges and genocides during his government conservatively estimated to be 250,000.
His invasions of Iran and Kuwait also resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Hussein was finally overthrown by a coalition led by the US in 2003, and was executed for crimes against humanity in 2006.
The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin is out now published by Monoray at £20 hardback (octopusbooks.co.uk).
- Chelsea FC
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