Fulham and their supporters commemorated the memory of former owner and chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed on Saturday with a series of tributes ahead of their match against Luton Town, which have been described by his son Karim Fayed as a “special moment”.
Mohamed Al-Fayed died earlier this month at the age of 94, and Saturday marked the first home match for Fulham since his passing.
The Egyptian billionaire, who formerly owned the London department store Harrods and the Ritz hotel in Paris, bought Fulham in the summer of 1997 and remained as chairman for 16 years before selling to current owner, Shahid Khan.
Fulham were a third division side when Al-Fayed took over but he promised to achieve promotion to the Premier League within five years. In the end, he managed it in four seasons, with Fulham reaching the top flight in 2001.
The club outlined that they owe Al-Fayed “a debt of gratitude” for his time as chairman, words echoed by many tributes from former players, managers and Al Fayed’s successor, Fulham chairman Shahid Khan.
Karim Fayed, the former owner’s son, was in attendance at Craven Cottage for the match with Luton and he accompanied club director David Daly and chair of the Fulham Supporters Trust, Simon Duke, onto the field before kick off to lay wreaths in his father’s memory.
Fayed, who spent time as a director at Fulham during his father’s tenure, described the support as a “special moment”, particularly as the club laid out scarves for fans to wave before kick off, reflecting how his father would raise his own scarf on the field before matches during his time as chairman.
“It was wonderful,” Fayed told The Athletic. “One of the things that I remember from my time here is that it was important for my father to engage with the fans in many ways.
“It’s one of the things where we felt very close. For me it was a fantastic opportunity, watching him take the club to where it is now. It is something I will always keep close to me. The scarf-waving was a brilliant idea. Not many chairmen did that.”
Al-Fayed is fondly remembered by Fulham supporters, who continue to sing his name on the terraces today and did so again during their 1-0 victory over Luton Town.
His tenure was colourful and eventful, traversing fan campaigns to ensure Fulham remained at Craven Cottage and a curious statue of Michael Jackson, to incredible on-field success.
Aside from restoring Fulham to the Premier League and ending years of financial uncertainty, his appointment of Roy Hodgson led to a memorable European run to the Europa League final in 2010. Al-Fayed also introduced the first fully professional women’s team in English football.
Karim Fayed, who was a teenager when Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the club, says he is a life-long supporter and that Craven Cottage remains a special place for the family.
“Growing up in the club, from the beginning, all the way up until now, has been a very important experience,” he said. “During my father’s era and now with our current owner (Shahid Khan), I would say that I’m extremely proud that he’s also managed to keep the club where it is and pass on the baton.
“I remember the ups and downs. It was an emotional ride. I really enjoyed watching the club, bringing fantastic players, watching those players in the Premier League. They were rare moments and fantastic days when I was growing up.
“I just hope it stays where we are now, for the future. It is a club that we all want to see for years to come, where my father left off. To stay in the Premier League for a long time.”
Tigana and Al-Fayed’s Fulham revolution. The inside story of Fulham’s amazing promotion
(Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images)