English music star Example (aka Elliot Gleave) now spends his summer travelling around the world, playing to fields full of thousands of dancing revellers - but it used to be very different. The Fulham fan admits his busy schedule means he will struggle to keep up with England's exploits at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, but he grew up watching England in summer tournaments and, adidas Golden Shoe winner at Mexico 1986, Gary Lineker remains one of his heroes.
FIFA.com spoke to Example ahead of a busy few months for him. He releases his new single 'Kids Again' next week and his latest album 'Live Life Living' will be released a day before England's final group game in Brazil.
In this exclusive interview, Example chats about his passion for Fulham, his friendship with John Arne Riise, his Republic of Ireland international uncle Tony Grealish and his predictions for this summer.
FIFA.com: How long have you been a Fulham fan?
Example: I grew up next to the ground. Craven Cottage was at the end of my street. When we were back in the old second division they used to have all the gates open and you could just walk in there whenever you liked. We used to go down on our bikes or skateboards. That’s my first memory of the stadium, not the football itself but going in there and just running riot in the ground. I wasn’t one of those who waited for us to get into the Premier League and then start supporting them I was there from the old days. My family have been living in Fulham for four generations now so it makes sense.
With your busy touring and recording schedule, do you get to many games?
Up until about six months ago I still lived next to the ground, I lived in the flats right next to Craven Cottage. You could even see the Michael Jackson statue from my window. I’m happy that’s gone! I live about five minutes’ walk away now. If I’m in London, I never miss a game but I’ve always got something on. Whenever there’s a game on I’ve always got a gig, studio rehearsals or I’m abroad. I was away for most of December and January in Asia and Australia so I missed all of the Christmas period.
If I’m in London, I never miss a game
What do you make of the English Premier League season so far? Can Fulham stay up?
I think they can. I think the squad’s good enough. It’s just how quickly Felix Magath can work his magic. One of the first team coaches lives near where I do and he goes to the same gym as me. He told me the other day that [training is] intense.
Living so close to the ground, do you cross paths with any Fulham players?
I’m pretty good mates with John Arne Riise, he lets me sit in his box which is how I get to watch the games. That way no one hassles me for autographs during the game. I’m more than happy to give autographs and have photos, but you just don’t want to do it during the match. You’re thinking: ‘Why aren’t you watching the game!?’ Two seasons ago, I was asked to interview Riise for a television programme and we swapped numbers then.
Tony Grealish, the former Republic of Ireland midfelder who passed away last year, was your uncle. How much contact did you have with him growing up?
It was always exciting having him in the family, he married my mum’s sister and they got divorced when I was maybe 14 or 15. After that I didn’t see much of him but certainly as a kid you remember going into town, he was a hero. You’d go out shopping in the local shopping centre and everyone recognised him and wanted to come shake his hand. I just remember thinking, 'Wow, that’d be weird,' and now the same thing happens to me – not for football though! As a kid I used to like playing football, I wasn’t any good at it though.
On your Twitter account recently, there were pictures of you meeting Gary Lineker – what did you talk about?
He was very polite – as you’d expect. I said to him: ‘I actually met you when I was 13’ – and he joked that he remembered it well... It was at the local park, I can’t remember exactly what it was for. When I was a kid, he was probably my favourite person I’d ever met. I still say to this day that the three people I’ve met who, at that particular time in my life, I was most impressed by – he was number one. When you watched the World Cup growing up and you meet him at that age, he’s a hero. The other two are Stevie Wonder and Jack Nicholson – but Lineker’s up there with those two.
You’ve mentioned growing up watching World Cups – what was your first memory?
Gazza [Paul Gascoigne] crying at Italy 1990. For some reason I really remember the Cameroon match as well, that’s pretty vivid.
I can’t really look past Brazil in Brazil... I think they’ll win it with style
Do you manage to find time to watch England in summer tournaments any more – what with performing at festivals?
The last few years with my touring schedule it’s been pretty crazy. More often than not you’re backstage at a festival doing an interview while England are playing or you’re on a plane. I remember when Kickstarts [Example’s breakthrough single] came out, it was number three in the UK Charts in 2010 just before the last World Cup – I remember that because I would’ve been number one that week if it hadn’t have been for the Dizzee Rascal World Cup song and Waving Flags by K’naan, which was number two. I just have no memories of that entire tournament because I was in the middle of my biggest song up to that point, the whole thing was a blur.
How do you think England will do this summer in Brazil?
I think we’ll definitely get to the quarter-finals. With Roy Hodgson, you just think he’s maybe going to pull a miracle off. I think over the last two decades, he’s easily one of the best managers we’ve had and I think when England have failed in the past it hasn’t necessarily been the players – a lot of the time it’s been the managers being a bit clueless. The squad is not the strongest by any means, but it’s in the top ten I’d say. You just never know with England do you?
If you were going to back one team to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, who would it be?
I can’t really look past Brazil in Brazil. You could go for Spain as well but I just think with Brazil on their own turf, with the home fans – they’re the best fans in the world. With their climate they’re always out playing with friends and family and they’re all showboaters, so I think they’re going to turn it on as if they’re having a kickabout down the local park – I think they’ll win it with style.
Finally, would you rather headline Glastonbury festival or score the winning goal in the World Cup Final?
The World Cup winner – all day.