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      Weird and Wonderful: Status Quo and strikes at Selhurst


      In its near-100-year existence, Selhurst Park has hosted a collection of the weird and the wonderful – people, objects and events. Here, we look at three of the most eye-catching events be hosted in SE25.

      Preserving the Status Quo

      When Status Quo played at Selhurst Park in July 1984 the majority of their fans, and all of their members, thought the band had completed its final London gig.

      Having formed as The Scorpions in 1962 the Quo decided to end their live performances after 22 years, with their penultimate outing coming at Selhurst Park. What was dubbed the ‘Farewell Tour’ came to a head with the Farewell London Concert in SE25.

      “I don’t think they should stop touring,” one fan said when interviewed. “I don’t think they’re old enough. They’re stupid for stopping.” She was right, it turned out, and Status Quo continue to perform today.

      But their desire to dial down in 1984 led to one of the most memorable non-footballing events in Selhurst’s history, as a 25,000-strong crowd witnessed the band perform for two-and-a-half solid hours.

      Tickets cost £9.50 and the concert lasted for over six hours, with the Disciples of Soul, Dave Edmunds, Phil Lynott’s Grand Slam and Chas and Dave performing earlier in the day.

      As supporters almost 40 years later can still attest, the back of the ticket booking form read: “Parking is minimal – in fact non existant [sic].”

      The year before saw Peter Gabriel perform and, of course, a few miles along, the likes of Bob Marley, Eric Clapton and Elton John entertained fans at the Crystal Palace Bowl.

      Selhurst gets political

      As he paraded Selhurst Park before Palace v Bradford City, head-to-toe in a full Palace tracksuit – backwards cap tight, oversized clothes baggy – and applauded by the crowds, Saša Ćurčić looked every bit the late ‘90s footballer. Every bit, but for his placard.

      An outgoing, headline-grabbing figure regardless, Ćurčić was never the everyday player. But when NATO began bombing Belgrade on March 24th, 1999, the eccentric Serbian began to attract more serious attention.

      NATO launched strikes without the approval of the UN Security Council for the first time, and Ćurčić’s parents Toza and Ramila still lived in Belgrade with other members of the family. The air raid sirens groaned across the city, marking the beginning of a six-week bombardment which saw the people of Belgrade take shelter however they could; a seven-year-old Luka Milivojević and his family fled to the countryside.

      “I always promised my mother and father I would get them a house in Belgrade when I was rich enough,” Ćurčić said at the time. “It has two floors and a basement which I had intended to use as a snooker room and also to put my trophies and photos in as a memory of my career. I never thought this would become the place where my family would hide from the bombs.

      “I ring them every hour, every day, to see if they are okay. There are thousands of other people in Belgrade who do not have such a place to go. It is always the ordinary people who are hurt by wars.”

      Ćurčić regularly demonstrated outside Downing Street and pledged to do so until the end of the bombings, saying he was advised by his family to stay in England to try to raise awareness. So, on March 28th, he took his protest to Selhurst.

      Manager Steve Coppell held Ćurčić and fellow Yugoslavian Gordan Petrić back from action, saying: “With it now becoming fairly tangible for the families of the two players, I told them they would not be considered.”

      Ćurčić was determined not to play anyway, and said himself that: “I will forget about football until the bombing has stopped. I am in a situation where I may quit football forever because this has caused me big mental problems. I don't think I will ever recover. I may never play again, which will be a big shame, but I need all my spirit to fight this situation.”

      The air strikes ceased on June 10th, 1999, with up to 1,200 Yugoslavians thought to have lost their lives.

      On your bike

      Selhurst has hosted a few sports beyond domestic football, with cricket, baseball and boxing also seen in SE25. But perhaps the strangest to have graced the pitch is bicycle polo, a once-popular competition that regularly featured at Selhurst in the late 1940s.

      For the uninitiated, bicycle polo is exactly what it sounds like: picture polo but with bikes instead of horses. Teams of three wheel around and the first to hit five goals wins. It still exists today, with the UK finishing third in the 2019 International Bicycle Polo Championships. But you knew that already.

      In 1946 bicycle polo was played every Saturday at Selhurst between May 25th-August 17th in the London League, with teams based on the capital’s football clubs. So Palace opened the fixtures against Tottenham, who went on to play Arsenal. After that came Chelsea, Charlton and Brentford – and later internationals involving England and France.

      Local side Norwood Paragon also contested the English Championship final at Selhurst in August that year, and games appear to have been held until 1949. Why they stopped is unknown – but we could take a pretty good guess.