Published: 00:00, 04 January 2017
| Updated: 12:07, 04 January 2017
Millions of music fans were shocked to hear the news of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day – but one was left more heartbroken than most.
Saf Sathi has worshipped the pop star for more than 30 years, having fallen in love with his music as a 12-year-old schoolboy back in 1982.
Since then he has not only built a whopping collection of memorabilia, which fills up an entire room of his home in The Street, Rochester, he even named his son Michael, now 22, after the singer.
Unsurprisingly, learning of the singer’s death was rather tough to take for the long-time fan.
“I had just come home from my sister-in-law’s after celebrating Christmas Day and I saw the news,” recalled Saf.
“I stayed up until about 5am to hear what exactly had happened, because I didn’t believe it.
“It’s still a shock now, I keep thinking whether it has really happened because it was so out of the blue.”
Saf made the decision to head up to the singer’s home in Highgate, north London on Boxing Day to pay tribute alongside hundreds of other fans, which was the first time he’d been back since a previous meeting with George himself.
He was able to snap a picture with the star and would subsequently feature in the Medway Messenger. George signed the photo and it’s become one of Saf’s most prized possessions.
“Three years ago was the meeting, so it was 20 years for me waiting for it to happen,” he said.
"He exceeded all my expectations just because of how nice and friendly he was" - Saf Sathi
“I was with some other fans and we decided to go to the house on that particular day. There’s a pub opposite the house, so when we saw the door open we just went up to the door and it was George.
“He turned round and said ‘hi, did you want a photo?’ I was just gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘if you give your phone to my boyfriend, he’ll take a picture’.
“Then I asked him how he was doing, because it was after he had his spell of pneumonia, and he said ‘I’m well, thank you’ and I said I loved him and he said ‘thank you’. He noticed we had the same beard as well.
“He exceeded all my expectations just because of how nice and friendly he was. It was perfect.”
George wasn’t the first person to notice the resemblance between the two, with friends and family first spotting it when Saf’s beard started to grow as a youngster.
The similarity in appearance was picked up on by weekly Asian newspaper the Eastern Eye in 1993, when it invited readers who thought they looked like celebrities to send in pictures comparing them.
For Saf, who runs the Post Office in Singlewell Road, Gravesend, alongside wife Favita, the resemblance to his idol is certainly fitting, having been such a fan for so long.
He added: “It started from Wham! when I was at school, and from then it went on to the solo career.
“It was the style, the songwriting, it just struck a chord and I was hooked from day one.
“I’ve got a shrine in my house, I’ve got every single UK release from 1982 to present. I’ve got CDs, records, DVDs, Blu-Rays now. You name it and I’ve got it in that room.”
But more than any picture, album or DVD, it’s the memories that Saf will cherish the most.