“That’s where your shirt will be, next to Maradona’s,” Uri Geller tells the North Berwick Amateurs squad from his opulent museum in Israel, “Well done guys, three nil, wow, I really do believe in the powers of the mind.”
It has been six days since the notorious spoon-bending psychic became chairman of the LEAFA Saturday side, but already the club is feeling the new boardroom bounce. There is talk of contacts at Premier League behemoths Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, a team mascot in a giant puffin outfit and the potential for friendlies against other micro-states.
“It has all been a bit mad,” manager and co-founder Hamish Law tells STV News, “But we’re just rolling with it, if nothing else, it is all good publicity.”
Confused? That’s understandable. Allow us to sum up the past week in the storied two-year history of this tiny football club paying subs to take part in a lopsided league where not every weekend guarantees a match.
An article in the local East Lothian Courier newspaper claimed Geller, who owns the mysterious Lamb Island off the coast of the region would be setting up his own national football team for the rocky outcrop he declared a “micro-nation” earlier this year.
Sensing an opportunity, the Ammies, now nicknamed the “Lambies”, contacted the 75-year-old in Israel with the offer of representing the tiny islet. To their astonishment, Geller was not only enthused by the project, but designed a new badge, offered to pay their fees for the rest of the season and agreed to sign on as chairman as long as he could change the name to North Berwick Lamb FC.
“We all grew up in North Berwick and we had heard of Uri Geller, but he wasn’t really our demographic,” says Hamish, who set up the side with friends Jack Fish and Finlay Pratt on Zoom during lockdown.
“But we saw the article in the paper that he wanted to make an international team for Lamb on his island, so Jack decided to reach out.
“I don’t know how he got in contact but they exchanged numbers and within five minutes he was on board, he was sending voice notes, he sent him photos of the ins and outs of the island, there were pictures of Peter Andre receiving his citizenship.
“We’ve never met him face to face. But he has been really enthusiastic, he said he had big contacts at Tottenham and Arsenal, he talked about the dream being for Jose Mourinho to manage the first international team for Lamb.”
Since Geller’s arrival, the side has played two and won two, with Mill AFC swept aside 3-0 on Saturday, earning a congratulatory video from the 75-year-old on Twitter in which he promised to display the side’s shirt next to a myriad of footballing memorabilia from Pele, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among others.
After Monday night’s victory against Fernieside, he even photoshopped himself in to a team picture as a way of lending support.
Geller bought the island for £30,000 in 2009 after becoming convinced it harboured secret Ancient Egyptian treasure.
That link is reflected in the new logo set to adorn the “famous” red and black stripes, featuring a pyramid at its centre, but does the squad buy in to the mythology?
“We’d always known him as a spoon-bender,” Hamish says.
“We all grew up in and around North Berwick and our summer job was caddying at North Berwick Golf Club. But as a caddy, you would always tell these stories about the island. You didn’t know if they were true or not, but the tourists loved them.
“He’s quite a well-known a guy around the world. Once we started looking into it, it was like, what does this guy want to do with us?
“But he’s been lovely, he’s been so enthusiastic about everything, it’s hard not to just roll with it.”
Geller has already spoken of his aspirations of taking the team to the World Cup, however some of his other ideas have remain under consideration by the trio of co-founders.
“He wanted to set us up with a big costume designer and get something made for a puffin mascot that could stand at the side of the pitch during games,” Hamish laughed.
“We were like, ‘Uri, I don’t know how many amateur games you’ve been to around Edinburgh, but I’m not sure that would work’.
“Having said that, there is a boy in the team who would be perfect for it. He says he wants to come across and take part in a game for us too. Now, he is 75, but there’s no age groups in amateurs, so he’s more than welcome.”
Geller has something of a chequered history with football, particularly in Scotland. He claimed to have moved Gary McAllister’s missed penalty against at Euro 96 off the spot using the power of his mind from a helicopter positioned above Wembley Stadium, though later attempted to row that back by making David Marshall guess correctly to save Alexsandr Mitrovic’s penalty when Scotland’s men beat Serbia to qualify for their first major international tournament in 2021.
He also spent time on the board at Exeter City where he infamously brought Michael Jackson to make a speech at the club’s St James Park in front of a crowd of thousands.
However, there is also a serious side to Geller’s involvement. All squad members have been made citizens of Lamb, paying a $1 fee for the privilege – the proceeds of which go towards a children’s charity in Israel helping youngsters with heart conditions.
The Ammies, sorry, Lambies, themselves have a pre-existing relationship with the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and regularly donate player fines to the charity.
“We founded this from three friends who used to play with each other as teenagers,” Hamish says.
“We all fell out of playing and lockdown convinced us we wanted to get back into it, so if this helps us with funding and with ultimately building something where we can have a proper club with colts who then go on to play in the amateur side, that’s a good thing. We want to build something to last.”