A leading Addick has been criticised over two meetings he held with Syria's President Assad, although it is not thought that he made any attempt to convince the Syrian dictator of the virtues of Addicktion, to encourage him to invest in the club or even presented him with anything from the club shop. Indeed, as the visits were made as part of a delegation, Assad could have been left with a bewildering array of mementoes from different clubs. As it is, the regime has accused Barcelona of using Champions League matches to send coded messages to insurgents: Plot
Indeed, although the one time I met the Addick in question in a non-football context I crossed swords with him, the whole attack strikes me as rather unfair. It has to be remembered that at one time the view in Britain was that President Assad was a potential modernising force whose wife had been brought up and educated in Britain, where he had studied as an eye surgeon, and therefore might have Anglophile tendencies. She is certainly very familiar with London's most expensive shops. However, in contrast to unproven suggestions that Osama bin Laden went to matches at Highbury, there is no record of Assad attending any football matches while he was studying in London.
Roger Godsiff is the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green and the chairman of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust. There is no doubt that he is an authentic Addick as he originates from Catford and was a Lewisham councillor and Mayor of Lewisham, and he makes it clear in reference publications that he is a Charlton supporter.
The latest edition of Private Eye harshly describes Godsiff as a 'veteran nonentity' and lambasts his contribution to the debate on Syria. It quotes him as saying 'I have been to Syria on two occasions and had audiences with President Assad, and they were certain illuminating.' Private Eye comments, 'Illuminating for Assad? One thinks not' and goes on to suggest that the Syrian dictator needs a new diary secretary. One possible reading of the report is that Godsiff was a supporter of the Syrian regime when in fact he was simply making the case against military intervention as did other MPs.
When I checked Hansard I found that it was a classic case of a quotation being taken out of context. What Godsiff went on to say was: 'Syria is ruled by him [Assad] as a family fiefdom and has a history of brutality. Its political structure—the Ba’athist party—is modelled on the old Russian Communist party. I say that because I do not, however, believe that President Assad is a fool, but I will return to that later.'
Any mention of Charlton in a Middle East context always remains me of Iran and Karim Bhageri who remains our most capped player but only appeared once as a substitute for Charlton. He was nevertheless the first Iranian to play in the Premiership and played his last game for Iran in 2010. I never got the full sp on that and I won't be around when the government archives are opened in the future.