The controversial owner of the Fulham soccer club wants fans to know “they can go to hell” if they don’t like a new, prominent Michael Jackson statue outside the stadium.
Mohammed Al Fayed unveiled the 7-ft., six-inch tall statue, which depicts Jackson dancing with a microphone, on Sunday. He commissioned the work following Jackson’s death in June 2009, and had originally planned to display it inside Harrod’s department store in London, which he sold in May 2010.
(More on TIME.com: See TIME’s special coverage of Michael Jackson)
Bemused fans have described the statue as embarrassing, tacky and misplaced, and questioned Jackson’s connections to the soccer team. But a defiant Al Fayed won’t hear it. “If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell,” he told the BBC. “If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to [rival soccer team] Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else.” Al Fayed, a long-time friend of Jackson, also recounted that he attended a game with Jackson at the stadium, and that the King of Pop “was running like a child, he loved the place.”
Fulham defender Brede Hangeland has stood up for the Egyptian business tycoon, saying he can erect statues of whomever he wants—and wherever he likes. “Jackson’s music has been on in the dressing room a couple of times. I’m sure we won when his music was played…We have the deepest respect for everything about the chairman. If he wants to do this then it is all good.”
The bizarre statue isn’t Al Fayed’s first turn at memorial-making. In 2005, he unveiled a bronze statue inside Harrods that depicts Princess Diana and his son, Dodi Fayed, who died alongside the princess in a 1997 car crash in Paris. He named the statue “Innocent Victims,” and said it captured the pair in “eternal happiness.” (via BBC)
(More on TIME.com: See the last photos of Michael Jackson)