Gary Lineker said his 26-year-old was filming World Cup qualifier between Sierra Leone and Liberia
By Amie Gordon For MailOnline|
Gary Lineker, the former England footballer in an exclusive interview with the MailOline revealed how his son Harry Lineker ‘nearly lost his life’ in a football riot in between Liberia and Sierra Leone last weekend.
The former England footballer revealed his son Harry, who was filming a World Cup qualifier between Sierra Leone and Liberia, was attacked when fans stormed the pitch.
Lineker said the ‘terrified’ 26-year-old was beaten by around 60 thugs who ripped his clothes off and stole his phone and belongings when furious fans ‘kicked off’ after Liberia went through to the group phase of the 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Liberia won the first leg of match 3-1, and with Sierra Leone winning the game 1-0 on Sunday they only needed one more goal to go through on away goals.
But Sierra Leone captain Umaru Bangura missed a penalty in injury time, prompting fans to storm the pitch and hurl rocks as Liberia went through.
Speaking on his Behind Closed Doors podcast with Danny Baker today, the Match of the Day host said his son, who normally produces the podcast, was ‘terrified’.
He said: ‘You know my Harry, who is obviously our producer on our podcast is not here.
‘Well, he’s been in Africa filming in Sierra Leone, he’s been there a few days doing a bit of work around the FIFA match between Sierra Leone and Liberia.
‘Liberia won the first leg 3-1 and then it was played at Sierra Leone and they were there filming behind the scenes, in the dressing rooms, with all the fans.
‘Well, my Harry nearly lost his life – it was a bit of a scary moment.’
After the match, furious fans vandalised Bangura’s home, smashing windows as they pelted it with rocks.
He added: ‘Sierra Leone got a goal and they need one more to go through on away goals and they had a penalty in last minute and the fella missed it and it kicked off – there were riots, it went bonkers, they were attacking the pitch, throwing rocks.
‘Harry was with the camera guy and a fixer and (after) the mass invasion they got split, and Harry was on his own and he’s running and he thinks ‘I’ll take cover in the tunnel’.
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‘So he gets into the tunnel and then all the fans come in – there’s 50 or 60 of them and he gets attacked.
‘They were ripping his clothes off, they’ve taken his phone and everything out of his pockets – he only had his fags, being a silly smoker, typical Harry, and he was terrified – genuinely terrified.’
The former England striker – who netted 48 goals for the Three Lions – added: ‘He thought he saw a blade and thought he was going to get knifed.
Football fans also threw stones at ambulances, which were later pictured with smashed windows +8
Football fans also threw stones at ambulances, which were later pictured with smashed windows
‘There was an armed guard with a shield and he was shielding people off so he (Harry) dived behind the shield and he said he was there for quite a while and this guy saved him thankfully and got him into a room.
‘I learned about that last night and spent half the night awake – he’s alright, he’s on his way home. It was the last day filming, he’s fine – I don’t want to be a drama queen.’
He added: ‘It just shows you the fragility of your children – and I just suddenly thought to myself ‘God, if that call had been slightly different’.
‘He’s alright – he didn’t have his phone, so he Facetimed me off his laptop when he eventually got back to his hotel and said ‘Dad I’m alright, it terrified me, but I’m ok.’
Sierra Leone captain Umaru Bangura, speaking to the BBC after his home was vandalised, said: ‘[It was] one of the worst days of my life.
‘I can’t even go outside because I didn’t expect this kind of hostility towards me.
‘I did my job by stepping up as the captain to take the spot kick,’ he added. ‘I am really disappointed. But at the same time I wish to say sorry [and] beg for their forgiveness.’