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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Jackson backs England to win
Michael Jackson in Exeter, with David Blaine (left) and Uri Geller
Jackson gave a short speech in the stadium
Pop legend Michael Jackson has backed England to win the World Cup at an event in Exeter.

The superstar, who has appeared at some of the world's most glittering showbiz venues, turned up at the more humble charity event organised by Exeter City.

A near-capacity crowd of 10,000 people packed into the stadium for a rare chance to see the star in the flesh.

Jackson arrived in the back of an open classic car before jumping from the vehicle to the screams of the crowd.


England is going to win? I know nothing about sport, but I believe you

Michael Jackson
Dressed in a black embroidered jacket, he told the crowd from the stage: "We are here to support children with Aids, to help the youngest of them affected by HIV.

"We will help them build a better future, all of us working together for them, a future without prejudice for these children and their families.

"We must learn to live and love each other before it is too late."

Jackson was accompanied by a number of children on the stage.

Before making a farewell tour of the stadium by car after his 10-minute appearance Jackson said: "One other thing, England is going to win?" and gave a double thumbs up to the crowd.

Michael Jackson and Uri Geller
Jackson is a close friend of Uri Geller
"I know nothing about sport, but I believe you," he said as the crowd cheered back at him.

Jackson, who earlier today toured the Palace of Westminster at the invitation of Lord Janner, arrived in Devon's capital city by special train and stretch limousine.

The controversial star, who has sold 200 million records worldwide, went to Exeter at the invitation of close friend and club co-chairman, psychic spoon bender Uri Geller.

Some fans entered into the spirit of the occasion by wearing Michael Jackson-style fedoras.

The event will raise cash for the club and two charities aimed at combating Aids and malaria.

Jackson was accompanied on stage by US magician David Blaine - who made world headlines with endurance stunts involving standing inside a block of ice and on a tiny platform on top of a high pole.

Singer Patti Boulaye, who led a gospel singing spectacular down the Mall during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, was also on the bill for the two-hour event.

Exeter co-chairman John Russell said: "All clubs are finding it difficult, we have to develop new areas of making money to help keep the football going.

Michael Jackson fans in Exeter
Fans queued for hours to see Jackson
"We are putting Exeter City on the map with this event. Michael Jackson is an attraction worldwide.

"We want people to get used to coming to Exeter City stadium to see what we have, and hopefully come and see some football.

"This is a good start for us, we hope to do more on this sort of thing," said Mr Russell.

The event came at the end of a day when, during his tour of the Palace of Westminster, Jackson sang happy birthday to Paul Boateng MP.

During the tour, an assistant brushed Jackson's hair at regular intervals, while the star dabbed at his own face with a make-up sponge and refused to go out in the sun without an umbrella.

Moonwalk

When the party reached the Prince's Chamber Jackson clapped his hands and exclaimed: "It's a lovely room, my favourite room so far."

In the Royal Gallery and Robing Room Jackson was mobbed by tourists but shook hands and signed autographs.


What a fantastic birthday surprise - I can't believe it

Paul Boateng MP
Emilie Williams, 20, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said: "I wasn't expecting to see him here today - I love Michael Jackson too."

A group of surprised schoolchildren looked on as Jackson briefly performed his trademark moonwalk.

The Lords turned out to be Jackson's favourite room. He pointed at the gold throne and said: "I want that."

But he was less impressed by the seats in the Commons' chamber, sitting on one and asking: "Are they comfortable after hours and hours?"

"It's incredible," Jackson said afterwards. "I'm impressed by the architecture the most. And I like the gold room (Lords)".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Warr
"Thousands of fans turned out in force to see him"

Click here to go to Devon
See also:

14 Jun 02 | Entertainment
28 May 02 | England
21 May 02 | Exeter City
14 Jun 02 | England
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
14 Jun 02 | England
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