On June 9th, I attended a Forum at the Gordon Institute of Business Science featuring Martin Tyler, Pedro Pinto and Duane Dell’Occa chatting about most things football. Martin Tyler is a legendary football commentator from the UK who has been commentating football since early 1980s. He also taught me football through high school (when I used to listen games on radio) and beyond. He is in South Africa working for ESPN.
Pedro Pinto, also an extremely knowledgeable and experienced football journalist and commentator is from Portugal but based in London, working for CNN. SABC’s football commentator, Duane Dell’Occa was the SA TV Commentator of the Year and has travelled extensively following the beautiful game. Attendance wasn’t that great but, for those there, this was a great opportunity to get into the minds of and see the faces behind the voices of football. It was structured as a dialogue with all getting the opportunity to share their thoughts on different aspects of the game and the World Cup in South Africa, some of which I have detailed below.
FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa
Pinto talked about how this World Cup™ is going to be seen and experienced by more people than ever in history considering the reach of the traditional radio and television as well as online streaming, facebook, twitter, etc. The first World Cup™ he saw on television was the 1982 one and, in those days, you had to wait till the next day to talk about the game. Now, that discussion is instant, as it is happening.
Tyler, who has been involved since the 1970s, has seen enormous changes in how we engage with the game. He has two children in their 20s and rarely watch traditional television. He considers this “a humanitarian World Cup”. There is a bigger picture to this beyond just the game on the field. It highlights some of the challenges faced by South Africa and draws necessary attention to them.
Pinto agreed, adding that the human story is a big part of this World Cup™. It has the potential and capacity to truly touch people and make a social difference.
Looking Forward To …
Tyler is looking forward to seeing Messi play, despite the eccentricity of Diego Maradona as the Argentina coach. During training sessions, they often have training games between two groups of players. The losing team usually has to do some menial task, i.e. pick cones after training, extra running, etc. Maradona had them line-up on the goal line with their backs to the penalty spot. He then had the winning side boot balls at their behinds.
He is also looking forward to seeing how Bafana Bafana progress having had a chat with Carlos Parreira who feels his team are on the rise.
Pinto is also a Messi fan. He’s interviewed him couple of times and considers him a good, humble kid whose family is involved in his PR and management. He also believes Robinho may surprise many. His time back in Brazil has allowed him some breathing room. No-one is talking about him abut his play may change that.
Dell’Oca believes Siphiwe Tshabalala should have a good tournament (and he has started well). Bafana went into the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations on their longest run unbeaten and current run is second longest.
Coaching & Skill
In discussing style of play and differences between how different countries play, Pinto feels that there is much coaching of the game, with youngsters coming in. Children learn how to play on the streets and acquire skills unique to their environment. In the Lisbon Academy, that has produced several Portugal greats, they try not to coach them to much and allow them to express their creativity.
Tyler would love to sit down with Spain’s Xavi and find out how he became the player he is – phenomenal. In terms of over-coaching, he feels it is because of over-protective parents, of which he is one. Hard to let your kids out on the streets to play in our societies today.
Vuvuzela & Jabulani
Tyler doesn’t think the vuvuzela will last till the end of the tournament because the noise is so loud it affects broadcasting, the players can’t hear each other and coaches can’t coach. (Yesterday, Sepp Blatter said it won’t be banned).
In terms of Jabulani, he felt that the Euro 2008 ball was a good ball and doesn’t like the look of this ball, while Dell’Oca does feel that the ball dips quite a bit and the set-piece specialists, like Siphiwe Tshabalala, are still trying to figure out how to make it work. All did agree that every world cup, there are complaints about the ball. Zeitgeist in Germany 2006 World Cup™ drew a lot of criticism.
Who to watch out for?
Pinto reckons the Serbians are over-achievers who might surprise many and reach the semi-finals. They have had ego problems in past but they have a good coach who seems to have been able to bring them together. His pick for World Cup™ itself is the Netherlands.
Dell’Oca interviewed Franz Beckenbauer who is confident that an African side can make the semi-finals. Pinto doesn’t see this happening. The teams have the players but “players win games, teams win tournaments”. For example, Cameroon have made schoolboy errors defensively; Ghana will miss Michael Essien, Algeria have no chance, Cote D’Ivoire will miss a 100% Didier Drogba and, with Nigeria, the coach is too new, doesn’t understand the players and know where to place them.
World Cup vs. Champions League
In response to question as to whether World Cup™ will lose its majesty because of Champions League, Tyler believes that, while club football – especially CL – is fantastic, there is something about playing for your country. The World Cup is more than just football, it brings a nation and nations together.
Life of a Football Player
It is important to remember that players are human beings. They do sometimes think twice about playing for their country because it takes a lot out of you. After playing a full season for club, a tournament like World Cup can be punishing, plus they often end up spending at least a month away from family. While they are paid very well, the demands on their lives are enormous; they are on 24/7 alert. They need to treat their bodies as temples and can’t just do anything. It takes a toll.
Pinto talked about how you see the repercussions of players’ actions when they start hitting 27/28. When they were 21/22, they would go out, come home late and play / train easily in the morning. As they grow older, their bodies protest.
A question was directed specifically to Martin Tyler about negativity of the UK media. His experience in South Africa has been positive and one of immense learning but “bad news sells newspapers.” Unfortunately, when you take on the World Cup, you also take on the s*$#. It is easier to write these stories and, often, editors reject the nice stories. He called his experience “an hourly adventure”.
Overall, the GIBS Forum was a positive, entertaining and insightful experience for all us football fans, journos, etc who attended. It has been interesting watching the first couple of games having heard these thoughts. I do agree with some elements but not all. One thing that all agreed is that this is one of the most open world cups ever.