TODAY FM PRESENTER Matt Cooper has accompanied former basketball star Dennis Rodman to North Korea.
The journalist and broadcaster, who presents ‘The Last Word’ programme on Today FM, was caught on camera with the ex-NBA star when he gave an interview to journalists at Beijing airport overnight.
The pair are part of a delegation which has this afternoon arrived in the notoriously secretive totalitarian state to take part in a high-profile basketball game.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said that Cooper is writing a book about the game involving a group of former NBA stars, including Rodman, which it is sponsoring.
However, a spokesman for the bookies said this morning it has scaled-down its involvement.
“We’ve been in contact with him [Cooper] for a couple of months, since the New York press conference (where the ‘Paddy Power Dennis Rodman Invitational’ was launched in September) and he said it was a very interesting project,” the Paddy Power spokesman said.
He said that Cooper is involved “in a personal capacity” to write the book, but it’s believed the bookmaker arranged his visa and is funding the trip.
Cooper could not be reached for comment, but it is understood that it had been hoped his trip would not be disclosed until he got back to Ireland.
Today FM said that the trip is not connected to ‘The Last Word’ or the station with a statement reading: “We can confirm that Matt Cooper is travelling to North Korea. Matt has taken annual leave from Today FM and is travelling in an independent capacity on this trip.”
Since announcing the ‘Dennis Rodman Invitational’ in September, Paddy Power has scaled-back its involvement in the project following reports in December that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed.
“We’ve taken a back seat now after the goings on in North Korea. We’ve decided to take a back seat but we are honouring our contractual obligations. The show is still going on and the match is scheduled for Wednesday,” the spokesperson continued.
Rodman has robustly defended his friendship with dictator Kim Jong-un whose regime is accused of widespread human rights abuses.
The eccentric ex-Chicago Bulls player is leading a team including retired NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker for the game which is being held in Pyongyang on Wednesday to mark Kim’s birthday.
This will be Rodman’s fourth visit to the country having previously spent time there as a guest of Kim who he counts as a “friend for life”
He told reporters in Beijing earlier: “I love him.”
Cooper interviewed Rodman for ‘The Last Word’ in October posting a picture of himself with the eccentric sportsman on his Twitter page:
First published 10.40am
Rodman: I love Kim Jong-Un