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Sporting Witness


The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history


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The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history




Albert Johanneson: The first black FA Cup finalist

In 1965, South African Albert Johanneson became the first black player of any nationality to take part in the FA Cup final. Willie Bell remembers what he was like as a Leeds United teammate. This is a Made in Manchester production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Leeds United left-winger Albert Johanneson, March 1965. Credit: Getty Images)


The Arsenal 'Invincibles'

In May 2003, Arsenal started on an unbeaten run that would last for 49 Premier League games. The team became known as 'The Invincibles'. They were the first team to go unbeaten all season since Preston North End in 1888. Former Arsenal defender, Lauren, and British comedian, Alan Davies, speak to Matt Pintus about that team. (Photo: Arsenal celebrate winning the 2003/2004 Premier League. Credit: Getty Images)


Kabaddi’s Asian Games golden debut

The 2010 Asian Games in China saw women’s kabaddi included at the event for the first time. Deepika Joseph was the youngest person ever to represent her country in the sport. Kabaddi is an Indian contact sport which involves holding your breath while chanting kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi. Deepika speaks to Reena Stanton-Sharma about competing and triumphing in the tournament and how winning gold helped to change the public’s perception of female sports in India. (Photo: Deepika Joseph (centre) at the 16th Asian Games in 2010. Credit: Liu Jin/AFP./Getty Images)


Battle of Bramall Lane

On 16 March 2002, Sheffield United vs West Bromwich Albion, at Bramall Lane, became the only match in English football history to be abandoned due to a shortage of players. After three Sheffield players were sent off, two got injured, meaning they were down to six men. Rachel Naylor speaks to referee Eddie Wolstenholme, who was forced to call the game off. (Photo: Referee Eddie Wolstenholme, caught in the middle of a melee between Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion players, at Bramall Lane. Credit: Press Association)


The start of the J.League

On 15th May 1993, the first match of Japan's first professional football league kicked off at the National Stadium in Tokyo. This new "J.League" replaced the previous version, which was composed of corporate teams of amateur and semi-professional players, and was seen by the Japanese Football Asociation as a means of qualifying for and eventually hosting a World Cup. Former Yokohama Marinos manager Hidehiko Shimizu tells Kurt Brookes about that first match and how it changed Japan's views on football. This is a Made in Manchester production for BBC World Service. (Photo: Nagoya Grampus Eight play Yokohama Marinos in a J.League match. L-R Junji Koizumi, Gary Lineker and Masami Ihara. Credit: Getty)


Indian weightlifting’s ‘Iron Lady’

In 2000, Indian weightlifter Karnam Malleswari became the first woman from her country to win an Olympic medal, lifting an astonishing 240kg across two categories. Nicknamed the Iron Lady, Malleswari quickly became a household name in India. She speaks to Dan Hardoon about her upbringing in a small Andhra Pradesh town, the taboos she broke to pursue her chosen career, her rapid rise to stardom, and her reflections on a landmark moment for Indian women in sport. This is a Whistledown production for BBC World Service. (Photo: Karnam Malleswari competing in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Credit: Getty)


Bomb scare at The Grand National

On 5th April 1997, the 150th Grand National horse race was meant to take place at the Aintree racecourse near Liverpool. But the IRA sent 2 coded bomb threats which meant the world famous steeplechase had to be abandoned. Managing Director of the course at the time, Charles Barnett, tells Uma Doraiswamy what it was like to be the man responsible for safely evacuating 70,000 people and trying to get the race back on track. (Photo: A sign instructs the public on the evacuation procedure due to the IRA bomb scare which postponed The Grand National in April 1997. Credit: Getty)


Ernst van Dyk: Ten-time Boston Marathon winner

On April 21st, 2014, wheelchair athlete Ernst van Dyk clinched a record-breaking 10th win at the Boston Marathon - a bittersweet achievement coming just a year after terrorists bombed the 2013 race. But before Ernst dominated Boston, he spent over a decade training and competing before achieving marathon and Paralympic success. Ernst has been telling Wayne Wright about how he achieved his Boston dream. This programme is a Made in Manchester Production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Ernst van Dyk about to cross the finishing line at the 2014 Boston Marathon. Credit: Getty)


The Marseille bribery and match fixing scandal

It has been 30 years since Champions League winners Marseille were relegated from the French top division for bribery and match fixing. The champions were accused of offering bribes to players from fellow French side, Valenciennes. Jean Marie Veniel was the referee who first blew the whistle on the scandal. He has been sharing his memories with Matt Pintus. (Picture: Marseille celebrate after winning 1993 Champions League. Credit: Getty Images)


First women's Six Nations Rugby Championship

Nathalie Amiel was a star of French rugby for more than fifteen years, from when she started playing internationally aged 15. She was part of the French team which won the Five Nations, as well as the European Championship four times. The 2002 season was her final one, she finished off her career winning the first ever women's Six Nations Championship. Nathalie has been speaking to Laura Jones. (Photo: Nathalie Amiel playing for France. Credit: Nathalie Amiel)


Ammo Baba: Iraq's footballing hero

Ammo Baba was a beloved player, whose heading ability was legendary and who scored Iraq's first ever international goal. As a coach, Ammo Baba won many regional trophies for the Iraqi team and stood up to Saddam Hussein's sadistic son, Uday. In 2009, thousands of Iraqis gathered at the National Football Stadium to attend the funeral of the player and coach, Emmanuel Baba Dawud, better known as Ammo Baba. His brother, Banwal Baba Dawud, spoke to Ashley Byrne in 2016. The programme is a Made In Manchester Production. (Picture: Ammos Baba's funeral. Credit: Getty Images)


Irene Van Dyk: Netball’s goal shooting star

In 2012 Irene helped lead her New Zealand team Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to victory, beating the Melbourne Vixens in the ANZ Championships. She later went on to play for New Zealand’s national team, the Silver Ferns. Originally from South Africa, she initially faced a hostile media who didn’t accept her as a New Zealand player, but with her success she eventually became a national treasure. She is the most-capped netballer of all time. Irene has been speaking to Alex Collins. (Photo: Irene Van Dyk playing in the All Star Celeb Slam in Novermber 2020 Credit: Getty)


The boxing referee who started a riot

In 1988, New Zealand referee Keith Walker facilitated a fight between South Korean boxer Byun Jung II and Bulgarian boxer Aleksandr Khristov. The Bulgarian won the match 4 -1, but when the bell rang, the ring erupted into chaos, with the referee defending himself from the punches that were being thrown his way. Soon afterwards, he decided to quit refereeing. Vicky Carter spoke to Keith Walker. (Photo: South Korean assistant boxing coach Lee Chung-Ha grabs New Zealand referee Keith Walker. Credit: Staff/AFP via Getty Images)


The first Basketball World Cup

In 1950, Argentina hosted the inaugural Basketball World Cup for ten teams from around the world. Argentina beat the USA 64–50 in the final in Buenos Aires on 3 November. Rachel Naylor speaks to Ricardo González, Argentina's captain. (Photo: Ricardo González in 2023. Credit: María Eva González)


Muay Thai: World champion Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu

American Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu started Muay Thai fighting in Boulder, Colorado. It was a trip to Thailand that made her realise that if she wanted to progress in the sport, she would have to move there permanently to train and fight. She quickly became one of the best fighters in the martial art, surpassing 200 fights; something no other western fighter has achieved in Thailand. She became WBC Muay Thai minimum weight world champion in 2023. Sylvie has been speaking to Wayne Wright for this Made in Manchester production. (Photo: Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu in training for a fight. Credit: Kevin Von Duuglas-Ittu)


The Vatican's mini-World Cup

In 2007, the first ever Clericus Cup was played, with trainee priests from the Vatican City's seminaries competing. It was an effort to present a different image of football, following various Italian scandals. Don Davide Tisato, the captain of the winning team and a former professional footballer, has been speaking to Laura Jones, along with Felice Alborghetti from the Centro Sportivo Italiano. (Photo: Davide Tisato lifting the Clericus Cup with his team Redemptoris Mater. Credit: Centro Sportivo Italiano Archive)


First women's cyclo-cross world championship

In 2000, female riders were able to take part in the cyclo-cross world championship for the first time. There has been a men’s event since 1950, but took another half century for female riders to be allowed to take part. Cyclo-cross involves races on grassland and sand, which includes steep gradients and often sees riders forced to jump off and run with their bikes across muddy sections of the course. Matthew Kenyon has been talking to Dutch rider Daphny van den Brand about the sport, her campaign and that first ever global showpiece in the Dutch town of Sint Michielsgestel. (Photo: Daphny van den Brand. Credit: Getty Images)


Calciopoli: The Juventus scandal

In 2006, Italy's most successful team, Juventus, were relegated from the Italian top division due to their involvement in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. The decision to demote Juventus came just days after Italy had won the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Journalist Paddy Agnew covered the case extensively from his base in Rome. He has been sharing his memories of that time with Matt Pintus. (Photo: Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi pictured in 2006. Credit: Getty Images)


Tiger Woods wins his first major

At the age of 21, Tiger Woods won the US Masters in 1997 by dominating the tough golf course in Augusta. Despite turning professional only a few months before, he destroyed the competition, winning the tournament by 12 strokes. He was the first black man to win the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club, which had only allowed their first black member in 1990. This incredible win was the start of him becoming golf's most transcendent superstar. (Photo: Tiger Woods receives the Masters green jacket from 1996 Masters champion Nick Faldo after Woods won the 1997 Masters tournament 13 April 1997 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Credit: Getty Images)


First woman to win Olympic gold in windsurfing

Top New Zealand windsurfer Barbara Kendall was run over by a power boat at Christmas 1991 and told she should not sail again. She refused to believe the doctors and became the first woman to win a gold medal in windsurfing at the Olympics. Barbara has been speaking to Laura Jones. (Photo: Barbara with her gold medal on the podium at the Barcelona Olympics. Credit: Barbara Kendall)