ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call Replay with Bob Ley, Alexi Lalas and Vice President of Programming Scott Guglielmino

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ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call Replay with Bob Ley, Alexi Lalas and Vice President of Programming Scott Guglielmino

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On Wednesday, June 9, ESPN conducted a media conference call to preview its month long coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa (June 11 – July 11) with studio host Bob Ley, studio analyst Alexi Lalas, and vice president of programming and acquisitions Scott Guglielmino. Select comments:


On the anticipation and impact of the World Cup in South Africa…

Ley: “The people, the culture, the readiness of the country for the World Cup, you heard it constantly, people said ‘we would be ready for an African World Cup.’ From everything we can see it has been delivered. Some of the paint’s going to be drying, some of the blacktop might be cooling on Friday, but the facilities from all reports that we can see are marvelous. There is a palpable energy around the city of Johannesburg…This is my fourth World Cup working for ESPN. And having been with the network for 31 years this is the most complex, ambitious and the most dedicated production I’ve ever seen, this entire project.”


On ESPN’s excitement to cover the World Cup…

Ley: “It is launch control and being put together with a spirit that makes you so proud to work here. I don’t know how we’re keeping it together. There is a complexity here that is mind boggling, but it’s working and there is a great spirit among the people…We have a lot of local folks working for us and there is a joy and spirit and pride in this event. It’s palpable, it really is.”


On the World Cup’s impact on the popularity of soccer in the United States…

Lalas: “Soccer in the U.S. is not underground and it’s not niche. It’s well above ground and there’s a whole army. There’s a whole lot more support than we understand. We certainly found that four years ago…and obviously you can point to 1994…I think sometimes we kick ourselves for what we haven’t done, but if you really look at it, we kind of have to pat ourselves on the back because what has happened with soccer on and off the field in the last 20 years, and the development of soccer certainly in the last 16 years is pretty phenomenal when you put it up against any other sport and the development of soccer in any other country.”


Guglielmino: “The reality of it is, it is absolutely a major sport in the U.S. As the demographics of the country continue to shift, we continue to see growth in our ratings and our audience levels for soccer across the board. Whether that’s MLS or U.S. Soccer all the way through the Premier League and La Liga, and now certainly with the World Cup, and even Euro 2008 as well. It’s exciting to get behind the sport in the way that we have.


“World Cup has been one of the company priorities this past year and really helps us as a company to focus on a few things and move the meter. World Cup has certainly benefited from that designation internally…From my personal vantage point, it’s helped us as a company specifically in the U.S. business, really get our arms around the sport and really get our arms around the event itself and the absolute marquee global event that the World Cup is.”


On the U.S.-England match Saturday…

Lalas: “The U.S. team has an incredible opportunity here to actually beat England, and I don’t just say that waving a flag. They will never get a better opportunity and haven’t had one than right now to beat a team of the quality of England in a World Cup. I think they are ripe. It doesn’t mean the U.S. can’t lose to them, but I think that England, when you look at them, they think they’re much better than they are and U.S. is a lot better than people think they are. Without a doubt, they have to play nearly a perfect game, but they also have to implement the mentality that Bob Bradley has brought to that team. They are structured, they understand their roles, they play good defense and they get big games from big players. They use the last four years — whether it’s the experience at the Confederations Cup, in terms of wins and losses in that time, or a qualifying process that they went through. These are all lessons that are learned…I think the core of this team really has to step up and do to a certain extent what they’ve been doing. If they do that then they have the opportunity not just to get a point but to beat England.”  


On the U.S. team’s biggest weakness against England…

Lalas: “Lack of depth. I think when you talk about their attacking abilities, while we talk in glowing terms about Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, and certainly they can be called upon, but they need some people up top. I don’t think Jozy Altidore is at the top of his game. Out of necessity, we’ve had to find some other people…Throughout years the U.S. has always been looked at as a team that could defend. And they’re going to have to defend it at certain points but not go into a show. I hope that the mentality of this U.S. team right off the bat against England is not to concede too much physically or mentally to England.”


On whether the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is the most dramatic backdrop for the World Cup in our lifetime…

Ley: “I can’t think of another international sporting event…I think the dramatic turnaround, when you consider that the guy who heads the organizing committee, Danny Jordaan, couldn’t vote until he was in his forties. You walk through the apartheid museum and you see the signs…You still see the issues portrayed. So, I’d say, yes. When you see Nelson Mandela – he’ll be at the match. When you consider the backdrop of the movie Invictus, when you consider what this nation was viewed like geopolitically 20 or 25 years ago…out of FIFA, out of the IOC, how close it came to civil war even in the early 90s after Mandela was released. Then you realize here they are hosting the one event that unites the world, you could argue, better than any other. There is something here to raise goose bumps.”

The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off Friday, June 11 at 9:30 a.m. ET with the opening match – host nation South Africa vs. Mexico — live on ESPN from Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa 2010. For more information on ESPN’s planned coverage, click here.



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