Oil billionaires are now a common feature of European football, with Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan at Manchester City perhaps the most high profile. But back in Malmö FF’s glory days of the late seventies, the sport was a far more modest investment prospect.
But according to a book by Swedish journalist Lars C Tisell, Qaddafi, who died in October at the hands of rebel fighters, was close to buying the Allsvenskan club, according to a report in the Expressen daily on Monday.
Malmö FF experienced their finest hour back in the 1978/79 season when they touched the pinnacle of European football after reaching the European Cup final.
While the lowly Swedish part-timers ultimately fell at the final hurdle to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, the cup run that year had caught the interest of the football world and according to Tisell, their success had not escaped the attention of Tripoli.
“He fell in love with the way they played the game,” Lars C Tisell told Expressen.
The revelations came to Tisell’s attention when the long-time Africa correspondent was invited for tea with the Libyan dictator after their paths crossed in the city of Sirte in 1979.
Tisell claims that Qaddafi told him of a match between Malmö FF and Monaco and asked of his opinion of the Skåne team, inquiring as to how much the club could be acquired for.
Tisell claims that discussions continued with a number of Qadaffi’s aides but that the plans never came to fruition.
He explained his silence through the years in the sensitivity of a journalist having had continued close contact with the ruthless dictator, which ultimately came to an end towards the end of the 1990s.
“I wanted to lie low with that and didn’t want to talk about it much either. I thought that it was sensitive and almost a little embarrassing, to be almost like a little messenger for a dictator,” Tisell told the newspaper.
The 64-year-old Tisell’s book will include details of meetings with a slew of foreign dignitaries and celebrities including George Foreman, Brigitte Bardot and Muhammad Ali.
Expressen reported that Malmö FF’s chairperson at the time, Hans Cavalli Björkman, has clarified that the club had no contact whatsoever with Muammar Qaddafi or the Libyan regime.