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Josh Widdicombe and Dara Ó Briain ponder the ‘The Greatest Mystery In Football History’

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Josh Widdicombe and Dara Ó Briain ponder the ‘The Greatest Mystery In Football History’

The podcast will explore ‘the phenomenon of Ali Dia’…

Comedians Josh Widdicombe and Dara Ó Briain host a six-part podcast exploring the phenomenon of Ali Dia’s overnight rise to the Premier League – for 53 minutes.

Josh Widdicombe, co-host of 53 Minutes:

“It is an honour to be asked to host this podcast on the greatest mystery of the greatest decade in the history of football. Like any football fan with their priorities right I see the story of Ali Dia as the sacred text of the sport and so I hope we can do it justice. Also, what a joy to be working with Dara and not have him ask me for some unlikely things you’d see in an action film.”

53 Minutes is a new podcast hosted by acclaimed comedians Josh Widdicombe and Dara Ó Briain, which will explore the exceptional circumstances that allowed a below-average, amateur football player to hustle his way onto football’s most elite stage – the Premier League.

In each episode, Dara and Josh will be joined by those who remember the singular game that shocked the footballing world to its core and which still to this day, begs the question of just how this could have happened. The podcast telling the story of the biggest mystery in football history – 53 Minutes, is co-produced by Global and Listen, in partnership with Dentsu Entertainment.

53 Minutes takes the audience back in time, to an era when Gianfranco Zola, Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer were at the top of their football game and were joined by none other than Ali Dia – for 53 minutes only. Whether he’s guilty of a con, a hustle, or simply of being the recipient of a lucky break, Dara and Josh will explore the reality behind the myth that has surrounded Ali Dia’s name for the past quarter-century.

Guests joining to give their take on whether Ali Dia was a hoaxer or a hustler include footballers Matt Le Tissier, Ken Monkou, Francis Benali, Paul Thompson, Peter Harrison and Simo Valakari as well as football journalists Ed Aarons, Frank Simon, Amy Lawrence, Graham Nickless, John Gibson, Graham Hiley, Steve Menary, Kelly Naqi and former football agent Winston Makamure, Southampton club historian Duncan Holley, Mady Touré who is the CEO of Generation Foot and of course, Graeme Souness – the manager of Southampton FC at the time.

In November 1996, Graeme Souness, then manager of Southampton, reportedly received a phone call from a man claiming to be the best player in the world – George Weah. George explained that his ‘cousin’, Ali, was also a talented football player, and asked whether Souness would consider taking him on as a trialist. The club was in the middle of an injury crisis, and the prospect of signing a player related to someone of Weah’s calibre was just too good to pass up. Graeme said yes.

In reality, Ali Dia wasn’t related to George Weah, and it wasn’t even George who made the call. Following Ali’s disastrous substitute performance against Leeds on the 23rd of November 1996 – in which he was brought on to replace the injured Matt Le Tissier and then subbed off after only 53 minutes – he moved on. He spent some time in Gateshead and Spennymoor, before disappearing altogether. And Global has finally found him.

All six episodes of 53 Minutes will be released on March 19th 2024 on Global Player and weekly via all other major podcast platforms.

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