Dara Ó Briain and Josh Widdicombe tell the ‘unbelievable’ true story behind their new podcast

Virgin Radio

19 Mar 2024, 12:15

Josh Widdicombe and Dara Ó Briain at Virgin Radio

Comedy stars Dara Ó Briain and Josh Widdicombe have got a new podcast out, which tells a quite remarkable true story.

The two Taskmaster champions are hosting a brand new football podcast, 53 Minutes, which tells the amazing tale of Ali Dia, and the exceptional circumstances that allowed a below average footballer to find his way onto the game's most elite stage.

“It's one story, and a quite legendary story to some extent, that could only have happened in this exact moment in the Premier League's history when it was all still a bit ropey and dodgy and thrown together,” Dara told Chris.

Speaking about how, in 1996, Dia signed a one-month contract with Southampton and ended up playing against Leeds, Dara explained: “Ali Dia blagged his way onto the Southampton team, was put on as a sub for one match, and was yoinked again 53 minutes later, and never played again. And it's [about] how he blagged his way on, who the guy was and where he came from, and where he went to after that.”

The six-part series explores Ali Dia’s overnight rise to the Premier League. 

Josh continued: “It’s a heist movie. It's a man who's pulled off the ultimate hoax. Graeme Souness, the manager of Southampton, gets a phone call from George Weah, the World Footballer of the Year who says, ‘I've got a cousin who's good at football. Would you give them a trial?’ And Graeme Souness is like, ‘It’s George Weah, the World Footballer of the Year. Of course I will.’ This guy shows up. He trains for a bit, but there's an injury crisis at Southampton, so it gets put on the bench. And then their best player, Matt Le Tissier, gets injured during the match, so he ends up on the pitch in a Premier League game for 53 minutes.”

He added: “What happened? What's the truth behind this?” 

Each episode, Dara and Josh will be joined by a variety of guests who remember the incident, including Matt Le Tissier and Graeme Souness. Dara said: “We’re not sure if [Dia] pulled off a really good number, or he was someone who just got over-promoted really quickly to a position he wasn't ready for, and in either way he’s living the dream.

Josh, who also hosted another 90s football podcast, Quickly Kevin, joked: “He’s the Liz Truss of football,” later adding: “Everyone in any industry has worked with someone where they go, ‘This person hasn't got it’.

“There's also that thing of, ‘Would I be able to get away with this?’ What would happen if it happened now? Would social media have destroyed it?"

Dara said: “We all go, ‘If you just gave me a runout for once in the centre-forward position for Man City, I’d score.’ How hard can it be? It turns out, quite hard!”

And regarding the reaction to Dia’s disastrous appearance against Leeds, Dara said: “It almost didn't get mentioned again. It was a local journalist who said ‘That was a bit strange, last week, wasn't it?'"

Josh interjected: “No national newspapers picked up on it... Their best player, their only good player, gets injured, and they bring on a fake footballer, basically.”

He added: “It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?”

53 Minutes is available out now wherever you get your podcasts.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.