Monday 26 January 2015

Matt Cooper’s ringside seat for Dennis Rodman’s bizarre match in North Korea

Radio star will have a ringside seat for one of the strangest games of basketball ever played to mark birthday of Communist leader Kim Jong-Un

Published 07/01/2014 | 07:18

US basketballer Denis Rodman, with Today FM’s Matt Cooper in the background, at Beijing Airport en route to Pyongyang.

RADIO presenter Matt Cooper will have a ringside seat for one of the strangest games of basketball ever played.

The 47-year-old has accompanied NBA player Dennis Rodman to secretive North Korea for a special game of basketball to mark the birthday of Communist leader Kim Jong-Un.

The game, featuring a group of US NBA players and a North Korean side, has been described as ‘basketball diplomacy’ by Rodman who has received death threats for his repeated visits to the communist state.


The Last Word host was spotted on Sky News with Rodman before they flew out to Pyongyang.

And Cooper was accompanied to North Korea by a film crew from Manchester-based company Chief Productions who are filming the game, for a forthcoming TV documentary.

Referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un under his official title ‘marshal', Rodman praised his leadership: “The marshal is actually trying to change this country in a great way.

“I think that people thought that this was a joke, and Dennis Rodman is just doing this because of fame and fortune.

“But just to even have us here, it's an awesome feeling. I want these guys here to show the world, and speak about North Korea in a great light.

“I hope people will have a different view about North Korea,” he added.

The basketball legend is the highest profile American to have met North Korean leader, but has been strongly criticised for ignoring North Korea's human rights abuses and recent reign of terror with the execution of Kim Jong Un uncle Chang Song-thaek.

Rodman, however, says none of this was his concern.


“I'm just an athlete and the reason for me to go is to bring peace to the world, that's it.” he said.

However, he didn’t close the door on the possibility of bringing up issues such as labour camps, where around 200,000 political prisoners are thought to be held.

He added: “And I hope that if this opens doors and we can actually talk about certain things, then we can do certain things but I am not going to sit there and go in and say ‘Hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

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