Matthew Syed

Matthew Philip Syed (born 2 November 1970) is a British journalist, author, broadcaster and table tennis player. He competed as an English table tennis international, and was the English number one for many years. He was three times the men's singles champion at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships[1] (in 1997, 2000 and 2001), and also competed for Great Britain in two Olympic Games, at Barcelona in 1992 and at Sydney in 2000.[2]

Matthew Syed
Born (1970-11-02) 2 November 1970 (age 49)
Reading, Berkshire, England
OccupationSportscaster, author
Sports career

He also embarked on a journalism career, having worked for The Times newspaper since 1999. He has published four books, Bounce in 2010, Black Box Thinking in 2015, You Are Awesome in 2018 and Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking in 2019.

Early lifeEdit

Syed was born in Reading, Berkshire. His father, Abbas Syed, is a Pakistani immigrant to Britain who converted from Shia Islam to Christianity, and his mother is Welsh.[3][4]

He attended the Maiden Erlegh School in Earley near Reading, then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with first-class honours in PPE[4] in 1995.[5]

Sporting careerEdit

A right-handed table-tennis player, Syed was the top ranked player in England for nearly 10 years. He won many titles with his usually defensive style. He reached his top world ranking of 25 at the end of 1998.

He reached the final of the European Youth Championships in 1985, losing to Dmitry Mazunov. He was a member of the English team that won the European title in 1986.

He represented Great Britain in the men's singles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, but failed to reach the second knockout stage each time. He says that he "choked" at the Sydney Olympics: "when I walked out into the mega-watt light of the competition arena, I could hardly hit the ball."[6]

He was English champion four times, in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. He also won the men's singles event at three consecutives Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, in 1997 in Glasgow, 2000 in Singapore and 2001 in Delhi, and also won three titles as a member of the English men's team in 1994, 1997 and 2000. He was also a member of the England men's team that won the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Author and commentatorEdit

Syed has worked as a commentator for the BBC and Eurosport, and as a journalist for The Times since 1999. He is a regular pundit on radio and television, commentating on sporting, cultural and political issues. His film China and Table Tennis, made for the BBC, won bronze medal at the Olympic Golden Rings ceremony in Lausanne[1] in 2008.

As a sports writer he won Sports Feature Writer of the Year at the SJA Awards in 2008[7] and Sports Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2009. His first book, Bounce, was published by HarperCollins in May 2010; it won the 'Best New Writer' category of the British Sports Book Awards (2011).[8] His style has been mocked by satirical magazine Private Eye.[9]

In his second book, Black Box Thinking, he argues that the key to success is a positive attitude to failure; it was published by John Murray in 2015.

Syed is managing director of a sports marketing company. From 1999, he has worked as a Marketing Consultant for the English Table Tennis Association based in Hastings. He was one of the co-founders of TTK Greenhouse, a sports-related charity.

Syed hosts a BBC Radio 5 Live podcast called Flintoff, Savage & The Ping Pong Guy. Alongside him on the podcast are ex-England cricketer Andrew Flintoff and former Blackburn Rovers captain Robbie Savage. Current and hot sporting topics are discussed on the podcast.[10]

In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Liberal Arts by Abertay University in Dundee.[11]

His book You Are Awesome was published in 2018. The publisher describes it as "a positive and empowering guide to help children build resilience".[12]


Syed stood as the Labour candidate in the 2001 UK General Election in Wokingham, coming third in a safe Conservative seat.[13] Syed won a place on the Labour Party's shortlist to succeed Ashok Kumar for the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency in the 2010 UK General Election. However, the party selected Tom Blenkinsop, who had worked in Kumar's constituency office for six years.[14]

In the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election, he endorsed Jeremy Hunt.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Syed is married to Kathy. They have a son and a daughter.[16][17][18]


  • Syed, Matthew (2010). Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the science of success. HarperCollins. 312pp. ISBN 978-0-06-172375-9.
  • Syed, Matthew (2015). Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do. Portfolio. 336pp. ISBN 978-1591848226.
  • Syed, Matthew (2017). The Greatest: What Sport Teaches Us About Achieving Success. John Murray. ISBN 978-1473653665.
  • Syed, Matthew (2018). You Are Awesome. Illustrated by Toby Triumph. John Murray. 160pp. ISBN 978-1492687535.
  • Syed, Matthew (2019). Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking. John Murray. ISBN 978-1473613942.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Matthew Syed – Award Winning Journalist, Best-Selling Author, & Broadcaster". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Matthew Syed". British Olympic Association. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  3. ^ Syed, Matthew (30 November 2013). "My father, the immigrant". The Times. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b Jacobson, Howard (17 July 2002). "Matthew Syed: An unlikely hero". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Syed, Matthew (1 May 2012). "Should people accept that pressure is a fact of life?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  7. ^ Marshall, Ian (25 March 2008). "Thirty years on another milestone for Matthew Syed at Oscars celebration". Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2008.
  8. ^ "All award winners". British Sports Book Awards. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  9. ^ Private Eye, "Hackwatch", issue 1287, April 2011.
  10. ^ "Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy". BBC. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Abertay announces honorary graduates". Abertay. 12 January 2017.
  12. ^ "You Are Awesome". 15 May 2019 – via
  13. ^ "Vote2001 Results & Constituencies". BBC News. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  14. ^ Hetherington, Graeme (5 April 2010). "Tom Blenkinsop, a campaign manager with steel union Community, chosen". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Jeremy Hunt battles Michael Gove to be top challenger to Boris Johnson". The Scotsman. 10 June 2019.
  16. ^ "About Mathew Syed". Mathew Syed's website. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  17. ^
  18. ^

External linksEdit