ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call Replay with Martin Tyler, John Harkes, Steve McManaman and Executive Producer Jed Drake

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ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call Replay with Martin Tyler, John Harkes, Steve McManaman and Executive Producer Jed Drake

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On Wednesday, June 2, 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 lead play-by-play voice Martin Tyler, analysts John Harkes and Steve McManaman, and executive producer Jed Drake. Select comments:

On the excitement surrounding the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa…

Drake: “Here from the IBC (International Broadcast Center) site, we are less than a quarter mile from Soccer City. We began assembling a small army beginning three weeks ago and when we are fully staffed we’ll be about 300 all in. The preparation has gone exceptionally well and things are coming together as planned…We have a production plan that we think is up to the level of ambition of this event with a great group of commentators that we’ve assembled, a broadcast operation that is far and away the biggest we’ve ever amassed outside of the US…The size and scope of this event and the groups of world broadcasters now that have assembled for this event, it’s spectacular, it’s exciting, and we are ramping up rapidly to meet the challenge and expectations that our viewers have.”

Tyler: “Africa has deserved its place in the prominence in organization as great as the World Cup…The sights and sounds will speak for themselves…As always when people say ‘what do you do?’ I say, ‘I shout goal’ for a living and I hope to shout goal many times down the ESPN microphone.”

On logistical challenges covering this event…

Drake: “Through many years of planning we’ve been able to minimize the logistical issues…In general the planning for this is so intensive and detailed there have been precious few surprises. The amount of equipment flown and freightered in here for us and other broadcasters is immense…We have factored in some time for everything not going as anticipated… The pure technical aspects of this event will be on generator with back ups and running 24/7 so we’re not on the grid in order to maintain worldwide coverage. As they say, things are going well which makes us wary. The unforeseen can happen at any turn, but where we’re sitting now I’m pleased with where we are.”

On U.S. Soccer and its tournament expectations…

Harkes: “For that first game, it’s going to very intense. It’s going to bring out the best of everybody and sometimes the worst. Overall, I think the U.S. team can play well together. They have to be organized, stay compact and stick to their strengths, which I think are those two things. And then certain individuals can shine, like a Clint Dempsey and a Landon Donovan once in a while.

“I think (head coach) Bob Bradley has done a good job of picking a balance of veteran players but they need to step up and be good leaders for a lot of the young guys. They are very enthusiastic, the younger players, and they’ve shown that they can compete and do well at certain times, but the World Cup is a different thing. It’s a different animal all together. Cool heads will prevail. If the U.S. veteran players on the team like Tim Howard being one of those in terms of goal keepers, who’s always been a good leader and consistently in performing, along with seeing Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu…As a manager the last thing you want to do is if one player can’t play, you don’t want to make two or three changes to accommodate that one player. They are looking for depth. In terms of the way they play against England, they have to be aggressive right from the start. There’s no room, there’s to time for them to sit back and try to absorb the pressure because the quality of England is too good…They find ways to score goals and they’re always a competitive team.”

Tyler: “It’s an advantage for the U.S. to play England in the first game because of the point you made about the Confederations Cup…As the tournament wears on then, there will be less of an advantage…In that first game, especially in the stadium that the U.S. had played in, they will know everything there is to know about England because Bob Bradley’s attention to detail. And the fact that some of the players are living and playing in the Premier League, there won’t be any mysteries for the U.S. team to solve…The backline for the U.S., the defensive side of their play, is going to be an area they have to get right. England has not been playing particularly well, but they are like a heavyweight with a big punch. They do score goals and they manufacture results from poorish overall performances…I think that might hold the key. If the U.S. defends well, they are capable of getting something from the England game. If they don’t, then they might well start with a defeat.”

McManaman: “I think within football team itself there will be no mistakes. They’ve got a good team. They are littered with players that have played in Europe now. They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve always had a good goalkeeper. Bob Bradley will have them very well organized. They’ve been there, been to South Africa, played at the stadiums, played at the time of the year the World Cup is on and got results down there… They’ve seen what the pitch is like and tested things out…I think the players will have other things on their mind and I think it will be a difficult game. Because its the first game for England on the second game of the tournament…I expect England to win, but I expect it to be very close…I think people in the game, that report on the sport know that the American team is a very dangerous opposition.”

On U.S. chances of winning the World Cup…

McManaman: “No chance, no chance (laughing). I think of course they’ve got a chance. They’ve certainly got a chance to qualify through the group stages. But actually winning the trophy, in all honesty, I don’t think they’ve got any chance at all, along with a lot of teams you’ve got absolutely no chance at all. I think the favorites will be the people you expect to play well like Brazil…Spain should have a great chance being European champions. Of course there might be a few dark horses…nothing out there that I think will scare the European teams. I expect it to be dominated heavily by the European teams with Brazil thrown in as well.”

On ESPN’s selection of commentators for the 2010 World Cup…

Drake: “We did a lot of research after 2006 and while it was a great success in terms of ratings, like anything we do, we’re always trying to grow. We did research and found that our audience was divided into two very distinct groups. The first being a very knowledgeable soccer audience and the simple math of ratings, if you can take that audience and get them to watch for a longer period of time, it has the same effect as growing the number of viewers. We really have targeted our presentation now for a knowledgeable soccer audience. When you do that then by extension, when you look at the roster we’ve assembled to call these matches, you can see the manifestation of our strategy has turned into this group. The second part is like any major sporting event televised in this country is that Americans are drawn to spectacle…those will be the casual viewers who are drawn to this event, by the images that we bring and the stadiums that are filled and the emotions that come off the pitch that are so evident.”

On images that will portray the excitement and passion of the World Cup…

Harkes: “Such a difficult task to think about four years in the running coming to the World Cup, it’s hard in so many different ways…There’s going to be so many images that come to mind, success and failure and the pride of the nations are at stake…Not all the celebrations that are so much there, but also the connections you have on the human side of the things and the failures that are there. You almost made it, but you didn’t get there…In 2006, I called the game of Portugal against the Netherlands and looking forward to the match so much and had no idea close to 16 cards would be given out by the referee. One thing that did come to mind was that half the fan base – half the stadium was all orange. The way that they marched through, coming up into the stadium themselves, that as a vision is hard to replicate anywhere in the world at any event. The amazing things you experience in the game itself on the field, on the day, it can be over in a split second if you blink your eye. All the way up to the fan bases, the celebrations, the way the country embraces the actual tournament itself, and the images that go out on ESPN. That’s telling the stories and making the connection to the game that really unites everybody.”

On Tyler, as an Englishman, calling the matches for an American audience and remaining impartial…

Martin: “I’m a professional broadcaster. It’s my job whatever the circumstances to reflect two teams…I never use the word ‘we.’ It’s a match to be described and it’s what commentators do to identify the players and inform the audience and I’ll be leaving John (Harkes) to interpret the action. I won’t be looking upon it as an Englishman broadcasting…May the better team win. I want to describe it as best I can to do justice to the occasion and to respect the audience…There’s absolutely no concern for me being seen as English, I’ll be seen as Martin Tyler broadcaster who happens to be English.”

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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