Malcom Brodie: Much admired veteran editor and football writer

He covered 14 football World Cups; he said it would have been 15 but for his honeymoon

Northern Ireland had just beaten the host nation, Spain, in the 1982 World Cup finals. Present in his dual role as sports editor and chief football writer for the Belfast Telegraph, Malcolm Brodie penned a stirring eulogy to Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O'Neill et al. After phoning a copytaker, who would type his report, he began to dictate: “Magnifico, magnifico, magnifico.” Back came the copytaker. “Yes, OK, Malky, I heard you the first time.”

The story undoubtedly had apocryphal elements; in some tellings the “intro” started with “Olé, olé, olé”, while occasionally it became about filing his piece from the iconic 1970 final between Brazil and Italy in Mexico City rather than about the match in Valencia 12 years later. A little poetic licence, or blurring of lines, was forgivable. Brodie covered 14 World Cups, more than any other journalist on the planet, and, as he was fond of pointing out, it would have been 15 but for his honeymoon.

His unique record led to Fifa, the governing body of the global game, presenting him with a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy, the original World Cup. It also brought him a certain celebrity status. Brodie could hardly walk through a press centre at a major tournament without a reporter from the Far East or Africa thrusting a microphone in front of him.

At his first World Cup, in Switzerland in 1954, he was at the eye of the storm as the quarter-final between Hungary and Brazil erupted into vicious fighting on the pitch and in the dressing-rooms. It became known as “The Battle of Berne”, and afterwards Brodie was in the corridor, trademark notepad and pencil in hand, recording a “small war” as the English referee, Arthur Ellis, fought his way to safety. Far from being daunted, he was smitten, and Northern Ireland's presence in the 1958 finals made the Swedish World Cup a more pleasurable experience, as it would again in 1982 and '86.

Although he became part of the fabric of life in Ulster, also writing a number of books and editing Ireland's Saturday Night (a sports newspaper, aka “The Pink”), Brodie was a Scot. Born in Glasgow when Clydeside was in the grip of unemployment, poverty and hunger, he grew up supporting Rangers. But in 1939 he was evacuated to Portadown, Co Armagh, his parents believing he would be safer there after the Second World War broke out. He later said he “fell in love with Northern Ireland... Even as a boy, I knew I wouldn't go back”.

A stint as a cub reporter with the Portadown News whetted his appetite for a career in the press, and in 1943 he was taken on by the Belfast Telegraph after answering an advert for copytakers. Having put a foot in the door, he soon pushed it open, graduating to the role of news reporter, covering the courts and council meetings, before joining the political staff and reporting from the seat of government at Stormont. In 1944 he interviewed the ill-fated bandleader Glenn Miller (Brodie's own musical hero was Frank Sinatra) and in 1953 he led the paper's coverage of the sinking of the Princess Victoria with the loss of 133 lives in the North Sea.

Brodie's passion, however, was sport – he also enjoyed boxing and cricket (particularly the great West Indies sides) – and, ridiculous as it sounds now, the “Tele” did not have a sports department. His offer to establish one was accepted, and for five decades his imprint was on its pages. He made it his business to get to know sports people, his contacts book brimming with numbers for everyone from George Best, Mary Peters and Barry McGuigan to the humblest Irish League club secretary.

His knowledge of his adopted country's national team was encyclopaedic. Between 1946 and 2009 he saw every Northern Ireland match, home and away, notwithstanding the fact that he had officially retired in 1991, after which he wrote a history of the paper that remained “in my heart”, as well as continuing to contribute obituaries and a sports-nostalgia column to it.

In an interview for the Football Writers' Association website last year, Brodie's advice for aspiring football writers confirmed him as a strong character, companionable to the last glass of Johnnie Walker Black whisky but not in thrall to any pack mentality. “Stand by your own judgement,” he counselled, “and discard the quotes scenario unless it benefits your story.” His services to journalism were recognised with an MBE and an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster.

The Irish FA is to discuss a proposal to name the press facilities after Brodie when Windsor Park is rebuilt and also plans an “appropriate tribute” when Russia visit Belfast for a World Cup qualifier next month.

Dr Malcolm Brodie, sports journalist and author: born Glasgow 27 September 1926; MBE; married Margaret (three sons); died Belfast 29 January 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable