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Bristol Rovers’ owner on a run-in with Abramovich and singing with the fans

Wael al-Qadi reveals how he evaded Roman Abramovich’s bodyguards to get his picture taken, his 80s love affair with Chelsea and why he likes to mix with the Rovers fans

It is hard to imagine many football club owners choosing the away end over the directors’ box. Not just that, but singing along with their club’s supporters on a cold Tuesday night at Milton Keynes Dons. Yet for Wael al-Qadi, that seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do a couple of weeks ago. “This is what football should be about,” the Bristol Rovers president says. “It’s not going along and wearing a shirt and tie. You have to enjoy it.”

Al-Qadi has been enjoying football ever since his father took him to see Chelsea in the old second division in the 1980s. Hooked from day one, he was soon travelling the country watching David Speedie, Pat Nevin and Kerry Dixon, and tells some terrific stories about that era and beyond, including the afternoon he eluded Roman Abramovich’s bodyguards to get his photograph taken with the Russian. Ten years later he was talking to the same man outside the dressing rooms at Stamford Bridge after a match between their respective clubs. “If you were to tell me that before I’d think you were having a laugh,” Al-Qadi says, shaking his head.

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