August 22nd, 1964. Anfield. Liverpool, lining up with the legendary Roger Hunt up front, defeated Arsenal in a thrilling 3-2 match where both sides were separated by a last minute Don Howe own-goal.
It was another strong showing from the defending champions in front of their home supporters who were growing used to their team delivering full points in their own patch. However, it was in London, not Liverpool, where history was being made. Broadcasting history that is.
BBC’s Match of the Day was being broadcast for the very first time with former RAF pilot Kenneth Wolstenholme the presenter. Twenty thousand soccer fans in London (as the BBC2 channel was only available in the capital at the time) watched highlights of all the action in black and white. Highlights with no slow-motion replays. Can you imagine that?
Spectators in Anfield outnumbered these television viewers by 2 to 1 emphasizing the low-key start of one of today’s most, if not the most, popular soccer highlights shows.
MOTD has seen it’s fair share of legendary commentators with Wolstenholme (who commentated 23 consecutive FA finals and the 1966 World Cup, famously saying “They think it’s all over; it is now!” at the final whistle of the final), John Motson and Barry Davies.
Motson has been on the show for over 40 years, clocking up well over 2,000 matches. His voice, with all its charm and enthusiasm, has, for decades, become a familiar echo in households all over Britain and the world on Saturday nights (British time). And he’s still going on as strong as ever!
On the other hand, Davies retired in 2004, having started with MOTD in 1969. In news that delighted MOTD fans it was announced that he is to make a return as a commentator next Saturday for the Crystal Palace vs West Ham game in Selhurst Park. An iconic voice to mark an iconic occasion.
MOTD has delivered to soccer fans dozens, if not hundreds, of memorable moments, be it a goal from the halfway line by Luis Suarez, a point blank save by Peter Schmeichel, a last second goal by Sergio Aguero, a crunching tackle by Roy Keane, a header by Roger Hunt, the tears of Shay Given remembering his late friend Gary Speed, or the remembrance of the Hillsborough victims in Anfield games.
So many moments.
After all, football (or soccer) is more than just a sport. It’s a passion that fills the lives of so many people. And we’ve all lived these moments along with BBC on MOTD.
BBC has promised that next Saturday’s show will feature a trip down memory lane full of nostalgia as past matches, faces and voices are recalled in a special feature. Here’s hoping that the football/soccer on show will properly celebrate a truly special day for BBC!
Programming note: BBC’s Match of the Day on Saturday will feature the commentary of Barry Davies for the Crystal Palace-West Ham United match. Today, on Friday (August 22), there’s a special 50th anniversary show at 5:30pm ET/10:30pm UK time. See how to watch Match of the Day using a VPN.