World Cup Daily, Day 22
A fun morning with 81 other veteran World Cup journalists—and a surprise visit from OG Ronaldo.
DOHA, Qatar — Enrique Macaya Márquez, 88, the legendary Argentine broadcaster, is covering his 17th men’s World Cup. His first came in 1958, in Sweden, when Brazil won the World Cup behind a 17-year-old striker named Pelé.
Hartmut Scherzer, 84, is a German journalist covering his 16th men’s World Cup. He brought his media credentials here from every World Cup he has covered going back to 1962 in Chile.
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Macaya Márquez and Scherzer were the stars of an event put on by AIPS and FIFA at the main media center honoring 82 journalists who have covered eight or more men’s World Cups. I was lucky to be one of them, having covered my first men’s World Cup (of eight total) in 1994 in the United States. And the biggest surprise came when Brazilian Ronaldo, OG Ronaldo, arrived to give out mini World Cup trophy awards to all of us.
For me, the best part of it was catching up with media friends from other countries. Daniel Arcucci (10 World Cups) and Ezequiel Fernández Moores (nine) are two dynamite writers from Argentina whom I’ve known for years. Arcucci was closer to Diego Maradona than any other journalist and can be seen in Asif Kapadia’s terrific documentary Diego Maradona on HBO (and in my SI Exploring Planet Fútbol video on Argentina).
And Fernández Moores is probably the most thoughtful sportswriter in Argentina; I interviewed him at his home in 1995 for my college thesis on politics and soccer in Argentina, and it was great to see him 27 years later and give him a hug.
There were other fun people to talk to at the event. I met Henri Szwarc (11 World Cups), the French photographer who happened to be the guy whose bib Weston McKennie dried his hands on during the game here against England.
“Give my regards to McKennie!” Szwarc told me with a smile. “I received messages from around the world talking about ‘disrespect,’ but I didn’t have any problem with it. I cover tennis as well, and they have ballboys with towels, and maybe they will start doing that for football now after this moment.”
It was cool hearing stories about how journalists used to cover the World Cup back in the day. At the 1966 tournament, Scherzer said, he had access to go into the locker rooms (which most certainly doesn’t happen today), where he interviewed a young Franz Beckenbauer for the first time.
I also got to see other people I knew, including my Mexican friend Fernando Schwartz (10 World Cups); Dutch journalist Jaap de Groot (12), whom I interviewed back in 1996; and English photographer Shaun Botterill (nine), whom I first met at Diego Maradona’s testimonial match in Argentina in 2001.
Of the 82 award recipients, three were women: Emanuela Audisio (Italy, 10), Donatella Scarnati (Italy, nine) and Cristina Cubero (Spain, eight). I hope there will be more in the future. The fact is I wouldn’t even have been aware of this event if it hadn’t been for my former Sports Illustrated colleague Tracey Savell Reavis, who let me know about it.
The older I get, the more I appreciate being able to come to these World Cups and build relationships with media members from around the world. It’s a small but vibrant community. And while I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to 17 men’s World Cups like Enrique Macaya Márquez, damned if I’m not going to try. Check back with me in 2058.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
• I wrote a USMNT mailbag column for CBS.
• We continue doing every-other-day episodes of the Fútbol with Grant Wahl Podcast.
• My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you. What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort. I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.
• It’s clear that after a bunch of upstarts qualified for the Round of 16, the heavyweights are taking over now in the knockout rounds. Not a single upset so far, and it’s setting up some mouth-watering quarterfinal matchups in France-England, Brazil-Croatia and Argentina-Netherlands. If that continues, we’ll get Spain-Portugal as well, but we’ll see what happens on Tuesday.
• For the next five days we’ve got a 20% off sale on annual subscriptions.
I’ll be back at it tomorrow. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the World Cup!
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