Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

The unlikeliest sporting superfans, from 1976
Cricket Sport

The unlikeliest sporting superfans, from 1976

In 1976, the Observer talked to some unlikely sporting superfans about what kept them watching.

The 89-year-old playwright Ben Travers showed a photo of himself playing cricket as a boy in 1896; the start of a lifelong passion. He had travelled thousands of miles to watch England play and his memory for long-distant matches and catches remained razor-sharp. That included a boyhood dream: seeing WG Grace score a century. ‘To hear him describe it is to look through a window into a sunny Victorian afternoon.’

Actor Peter O’Toole was not so much a boxing fan, as a Muhammad Ali fan. He had followed Ali since his first UK fight in 1963, even sneaking into the States for a ringside seat at Ali v Frazier in 1971 despite being in the middle of some ‘showbiz litigation’: ‘There were people around with nasty pieces of paper they were waiting to slap on me.’ He mimed his favourite moments, weaving and jabbing, and mused on what made Ali special: ‘That breath of divinity that takes some of our great performers and pushes them to where no one has ever been.’

‘By day she is a typist with a City firm of chartered accountants; by night she travels miles to watch her favourite sport of wrestling.’ Pandora Varrakalion, known by fellow fans as ‘the Duchess’, was applauded as she took her seat at the Albert Hall ‘in her tiara, full-length evening dress sequined with butterflies and glittering bangles’.

Why wrestling? It was ‘good value for money’, Varrakalion declared, but the storytelling also appealed to the historical romance fan in her. ‘The wrestlers are competing for my favours and I am there supporting one… rather than the other.’ Her hero was virile blond heavyweight Steve Veidor: she believed they had been married in a past life in Ancient Egypt, with three children. She had even sent Veidor horseshoes, white heather and a Valentine’s card to spur him on. ‘No, he doesn’t reply.’

Source: theguardian.com