A FILM has been made to commemorate the day the world’s most famous sportsmen visited South Tyneside.
Many people look back fondly on Muhammad Ali’s visit to South Shields in 1977.
The US boxer, alias Cassius Clay, was the childhood hero of award-winning film-maker Tina Gharavi, and she found out about the Kentucky-born 72-year-old’s visit here after she moved to the town in 2003.
Tina, of South Shields-based Bridge and Tunnel Productions, said: “I found out that he’d been and couldn’t believe I’d never been told that story before, even though I’d lived in the North East for eight years.
“He was my childhood hero. He was a man who really inspired me a lot.”
Tina, born in Iran, is best known for her award-winning film, I Am Nasrine.
It tells the story of a 16-year-old middle-class girl sexually assaulted by police after being detained for riding on the back of her boyfriend’s motorbike.
Tina began researching her documentary, called The King of South Shields, by hunting down pictures of the sporting and cultural icon’s visit at South Shields Central Library, in Prince Georg Square.
She added: “My next step was to find the kids who were in the pictures with him. I went to the mosque to ask people if they knew them, and they were really helpful.
“I tracked them down and did interviews with them about their experiences.
“I think Ali is just this universal symbol of love and support.”
The film explores Ali’s visit and the effect it had on the young Yemeni-British men of the region at the time.
It also tells how the boxer had his marriage blessed at the Al-Azhar Mosque in Laygate and examines the traces of Arab and Muslim culture and history to be found in the borough.
Tina said: “Ali is an icon. Everyone knows who he is, and he came to South Shields, a little town. That’s amazing.
“I think there should be a plaque or something to commemorate his visit.
“He spent a week in the North East, and there’s nothing here to mark it. I think there should be.
“His visit is definitely something to look back on and celebrate.”
To buy a copy of the documentary, priced £15.99, go to www.bridgeandtunnelproductions.com