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Arsenal will be wishing they had a time machine after blowing the Premier League title race – and one of their former players thought he did after the "best prank ever".
Anders Limpar, who made over 100 appearances in midfield for the Gunners and also starred for Everton in the English top flight, was fooled into believing he'd time travelled two years forward in 1997.
The Swede was the butt of a two-day long joke in his home country on TV show Blåsningen, who got him hook, line and sinker. They went all out to convince him, splashing a budget of £200,000.
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Not only did they hire out a whole airport, but they also employed qualified fighter jet pilots and professional actors pretending to be scientists.
The supposed scientists told Limpar they'd achieved what no one had ever done before as they happened to be on the same flight as him to Stockholm.
Picking up the story, he exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzone…
If you could time travel, what football result would you change? Let us know in the comments section.
"There were something like 20 guys involved, all to fool me, and I just bit. I was perfect for them, I suppose, maybe because they thought I'd believe anything. So, yeah, I believed I was flying in some sort of time machine, because we were already in an actual plane from Gothenburg. I had a bar at the time, The Limp Bar, in Stockholm, and we were going down to Gothenburg to launch our new beer. So we went out there – my friend with me, I think he wanted to buy a dog with his girlfriend. And when we went back to Stockholm, we took this little plane.
There were these two 'scientists' on the flight who were talking about being able to time travel, and the plane was diving up and down and all over the place. I can laugh at it all now, but at the time, my God, it was scary; it was really, really scary. They actually involved these jet fighters to guide us into Stockholm… actual jet fighters. We could hear everything that was going on over the radio:
'Where have you been? Where have you been?! This is the tower speaking, you've just shown up on the radar!'
The whole production was so cleverly done; I felt it was all real. It was absolutely crazy. We had two doctors on board in case I flipped, there was someone who could essentially press a button and the plane would just start diving up and down and all over the place. Food and drink was flying everywhere in the plane, and then we started to level out. I'm just thinking 'what the f*** is going on?!'
This science guy just goes: 'I've done it.'
'Done what? What the f*** have you done?!'
'I've flown two years in time.'
We didn't have a clue what was going on; the plane's jumping all over the place and we're being told we've travelled into the future… I went into the pilot shouting at him, demanding to speak to the tower. He ordered me to go back and put my seatbelt on.
'I don't go anywhere! I want to speak to the f****** tower in Stockholm because this is unreal!'
We were fighting with them in the plane because we wanted to know what was going on.
The story is just so funny; everyone was so professional, it was incredibly realistic. Apparently they'd done something similar with a Canadian guy two years before me, and he actually had to have psychological help afterwards because he was in such a bad state.
It was such a horrible feeling. We thought we were dead. When we landed, we were told they'd had funerals for us and everything, because apparently the assumption was that we'd died.
This prank went on for two days, by the way. It wasn't just a quick joke. We landed the plane, and they took us straight into a hanger, where there were science guys asking all of us questions. They showed us newspapers – which obviously weren't real – where crazy things had apparently happened. They told us Norway had won the World Cup in 1998… 'what the f*** is going on here!' I saw that headline and told my friend: "Look, look! Norway won the World Cup while we were away!"
That's when they told us they'd had funerals for us, and they wanted to know what happened to us, where we'd been, had we been in space? All of these things. It was all absolutely mind-blowing.
From the two days we spent in this prank, they cut the whole thing down to just one hour for TV. There was so much more to the whole story. Of course I was so glad when the guy, Lennart Swahn, finally showed up to tell us it was all a prank. I felt like I'd had a rucksack full of stones just fall off my back, I was so relieved. He suddenly popped up from behind a load of smoke by the door. He just shouts: "Anders! I've been back to medieval times!"
Again, I'm just like 'what the f*** is going on!?'
'Anders, it's a prank!'
No, come on… I couldn't believe it. I was happy, of course, but I just felt ridiculous for something like half an hour afterwards, to even think that I was flying two years into the future.
But, for years afterwards, I was angry with it all, because it made me a laughing stock in Sweden. I wasn't happy with that at all. That's why, when they asked me if they could sell the whole thing as a DVD, I said no. Look, it was an incredible prank, so funny when I look back now, and I felt so many emotions at the time. I was happy when it all ended, but when everyone in the country laughed at me for years afterwards… that was hard to deal with. It affected my personality, my profile, whatever you want to call it, because I was just seen as this laughing stock.
It wasn't a cheap prank at all in fact I don't think you'll find many more expensive. I was later told that – back in the day – their normal production budget per stunt was ten thousand pounds; this one was 200 thousand pounds. They had to pay for jet fighters, take over the airport, and everything. It was the biggest production ever made in Sweden, when it came to prank shows.
I never found out why they chose to do it on me… I'm probably too trustable a guy, easy to fool, naive, whatever you want to call it! For me, it's one of the cleverest pranks ever done."
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