Sunday 25 February 2018

Matt Cooper left terrified after attack by basketball star Denis Rodman

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

Niamh Horan

Broadcaster Matt Cooper has described how he was almost punched by Denis Rodman after the basketball star downed vodka and “any drink he could get his hands on” during their high profile trip to North Korea.

Speaking ahead of the release of the movie ‘Dennis Rodman's Big Bang in Pyongyang’, which features the radio presenter, Cooper explained how  the former NBA star turned nasty.

“He went for me at a function,” the Today FM presenter explains, “I thought at one stage he was going to try and hit me.

“He started shouting and roaring in my face asking me what did I know about writing a book. And at this stage I hadn’t told anyone in North Korea I was writing it. As far as they were concerned I was only over there to do a documentary on the game.”

Speaking about the moment that led him to be encircled by North Korea officials as Rodman stormed off he said: “It was the scariest moment of my life. It was not a case of being afraid of Denis Rodman but I didn’t know how the North Koreans would react,” he said, adding that he could have been detained had authorities  felt threatened by his undisclosed project.

“Watching Rodman unwind is certainly another interesting aspect to the documentary.”

Afterwards Cooper says the sports star apologised for his drunken outburst before repeating the scary performance: “He attacked me again in a bar on the night of the match. But I was able to sneak away because he was so drunk at that stage. It was very scary and it created a lot of problems and put a dark cloud over the entire trip.”

Asked if the two are on friendly terms now, Cooper says: “Oh God no, Jesus no.”

The Today FM host travelled to Pyongyang last January, to attend a basketball game in celebration of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his birthday.

Cooper narrates the movie, which sees the famous basketball player meet, greet and befriend the dictator.

He was among 14,000 spectators to watch the game between a selection of ex-NBA stars and the North Korean national team.

Cooper also describes a series of bizarre moments from his trip including travelling to a ‘House of Gifts’ where he had to bow to a 30ft marble statue of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-Il, playing ten pin bowling with the sports minister and having to sit in a packed sports stadium in complete silence while awaiting the arrival of the country’s venerated leader.

“It was like sitting in church waiting for Mass to start,” says Cooper, “and the minute he walked in it was like a religious fervour where there was five minutes of chanting. It was like a hymn to a living God.”

Movie industry bible Variety has called the documentary "a deftly constructed, consistently engrossing and frequently flat-out-hilarious account of a controversial sporting event with geopolitical implications".

It will be screened in a select number of Omniplex cinemas on Thursday, including Rathmines, Cork, Carlow, Limerick and Waterford. a limited number of tickets available at

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