Motson bows out saying ‘Goodnight Vienna’

The Euro 2008 final in Vienna will mark BBC commentator John Motson’s last major television showpiece.

Having first appeared on Match of the Day in 1971, the 63-year-old has covered nine European Championships, nine World Cups and 34 FA Cup finals. But Germany v Spain will be his last live TV broadcast.

“I am coming to the end of my career, I know that,” says Motson, a regular, welcome guest and presenter at SJA events, pictured here at our Sports Awards drinks reception with Jamie Redknapp (right) and the Daily Mail sports editor, Lee Clayton.

“I’d been thinking about it at the start of the season, but now I’ve decided I don’t want to be tearing around South Africa for the 2010 World Cup at the age of 65. It’s physically and mentally challenging.”

Among some of Motson’s favourite memories is possibly one of the biggest sports stories ever to break around a World Cup final. “The most astounding story I covered had to be Ronaldo’s noshow at the 1998 World Cup Final,” he told today’s Daily Mail. Typically for someone who surrounds himself with stats and record books, he adds, “I’ve still got the two team sheets, the first with his name on, the second without. Incredible drama.” Don’t expect to see them on eBay any time soon.

“My favourite game would be the 1982 World Cup tie between Brazil and Italy. Brazil only needed a draw but were beaten by a Paolo Rossi hat-trick. Bobby Charlton was co-commentating and had tears running down his cheeks at the end. It was so emotional.

“Liverpool v West Ham was my favourite FA Cup Final – what an atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium.’

Motson recalled how Hereford’s giantkilling victory over Newcastle in 1972 launched his career. “I kept thinking: ‘Mess this up, and you’re out’. I used to get terribly nervous in those days, but I got a contract out of it so it must have gone OK.

“I just hope people will look back on my time and consider me a good broadcaster. If they do, I’ll step away from these big tournaments a happy man.”

The BBC has lost the highlights television rights to England games and the FA Cup in recent contract negotiations, so Motson’s “retirement” may have been brought forward by other factors, though he intends to continue to provide occasional commentaries on Match of the Day and, more frequently, on rights-rich Radio 5 Live.

“I don’t want to make it sound like I’m disappearing for ever,” he says – but in opting not to work on the 2010 World Cup, he is aware it is the end of an era. “Eighteen tournaments is about right for me. I don’t want to go on too long, maybe end up going to South Africa and people say I’m past my best.”

The son of a Methodist minister in south-east London who took his son to watch games at The Valey and The Den, Motson joined the BBC in 1968, following stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield’s Morning Telegraph.

Read more on Motson from the BBC website by clicking here

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