Arsenal star moved by Holocaust tale

By Andrew Pentol, September 19, 2008

Arsenal's Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia played to another capacity crowd on Sunday when he introduced a screening of Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas at the Phoenix cinema in Finchley.

Almunia is a keen student of World War II history and the John Boyne novel on which the film is based is one of his favourites.

Answering questions from the predominantly Jewish audience before the screening, Almunia said: "I went to Normandy with my wife to see the white beaches and she bought me the book as a gift.
"She knew I would find it interesting as it was set during the Second World War and was about concentration camps."

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is the tale of an improbable friendship between the eight-year-old son of a Nazi commandant at Auschwitz-Birkenau and a Jewish boy of the same age imprisoned in the camp. Almunia said that he had found it a "harrowing story.

"You cannot imagine what humans did in the past and how many mistakes were made. I would recommend it to kids as it will help them understand that they must not make similar mistakes in the future.

"Although I managed not to cry [at the ending], my wife found this more difficult, which shows she is more sensitive than me."

His visit was part of the Reading Stars programme - run in conjunction with literacy and arts organisations - which uses Premier League footballers to encourage families to read together.

But Almunia admitted that efforts to get his Arsenal colleagues to read the novel had proved fruitless - "they are more interested in magazines like FHM and Nuts."

Writer and broadcaster Tom Watt hosted the question-and-answer session and there was a draw for the jersey worn by Almunia in Arsenal's opening league victory over West Bromwich Albion.

Last updated: 12:39pm, September 19 2008