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A Rookie Reporter on CONCACAF Gold Cup Duty

2011 June 18
by Gerry Wittmann

The IMSoccer News staff was well-represented in Kansas City last Tuesday for the Gold Cup Group C doubleheader featuring matches between Panama-Canada and the USA-Guadeloupe. Superfan Tim Hayes, photographer Jeremy Olson and myself were all in attendance at the sold-out, brand-new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and it was a fantastic couple of days in KC.  I obtained CONCACAF Gold Cup credentials through IMS for the matches. Although I have written about soccer for a year and a half, I went to Kansas City as a 54-year-old rookie reporter.

I was proud, excited and nervous.  Bundesliga Fanatic contributor Kurt Duncan and I left St. Louis around 9:00 am in the morning, stopping in Columbia, MO to take a tour and talk with the folks from SoccerPro.com, a retailer of soccer equipment and apparel.  People in the soccer retail business, along with player agents, have a wealth of inside information not available to us regular fans and it was fun seeing all the kits and equipment they have for sale online.

Carlos Bocanegra at the media session at Livestrong Park. Photo by Gerry Wittmann

We arrived in Kansas City in mid-afternoon and headed immediately to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to pick up my press credentials.  After a couple of false moves, we find the location to pick up the credentials.  Since Kurt wasn’t accredited, I left him outside and was guided into the conference room filled with reporters.

Wow, is that Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated over there? And that has to be Ives Galarcep of “Soccer by Ives” fame?  Yes, the big stars of soccer reporting in North America were in attendance, and I was probably the oldest and certainly the least qualified reporter in the room. Most wrote on their laptops or toyed with their video equipment as we awaited our chance for our fifteen minutes with the American players at practice.  Finally we were brought outside and lined up along the fence near the goal line as a few players stopped by to speak.

I don’t consider myself a fanboy, but I was in another world seeing these stars. Clint Dempsey with his dead-eye assassin look and fantastic tat, the ever-smiling Tim Howard, World Cup and European soccer veteran Carlos Bocanegra, the the great Landon Donovan and others all standing a few feet away. Naturally the players gravitate towards the more well-known counterparts in the media, or to a reporter from their hometown. There was a crowd around the stars like Dempsey, and one reporter who was closer up than I was, grabbed my digital audio recorder and held it with his so I could get better sound. Classy. Some players didn’t participate in interviews at all, and after fifteen minutes I left with a few poorly taken photos and bits and pieces of audio.

After spending some time at local museums the next the day, we headed back to the park several hours before the 6:00 pm kickoff of the Canada-Panama match. We made sure to spend some time talking to tailgaters as we entered the stadium.

We sat in the seats I had purchased, and I looked for fans from other countries to speak to. Yvonne and her son Charles were in their seats early, waving  both Panamanian and U.S. flags. Yvonne was born in Panama and was rooting for the nation of her birth, but lives in the U.S. and was pulling for the Americans in the second match. I also talked to two fans wearing Honduras kit, but my Spanish was worse than their English. I at least would get a photo with their consent, but to my chagrin the the camera’s disc was full. Of course I had brought a backup camera — it was sitting in the car.  At least Kurt had a functioning camera, which we shared.

After the doubleheader, I was over my rookie jitters and looking forward to catching interviews with a couple of players. Of course I messed up the location of one of the meet up sites for media and players, and had to walk around the stadium again to the media entrance. Just in time, I reached the place where the players walked to the bus, with reporters standing behind a long temporary fence.  The two players I really wanted to interview were Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones. I also write for the Bundesliga Fanatic, and Cherundolo has had a lengthy career with Hannover 96 and Jones excelled at Schalke before going on loan last winter to Blackburn Rovers.   I think both are great players who don’t get the attention they deserve.

Players filed down the corridor little by little, some stopping for interviews and others heading straight for the bus. There wasn’t much interest from the media in the players who didn’t see action. I had Freddy Adu standing right in front of me and would have loved to ask him some questions but he moved on before I could get my wits about me. Freddy does have a great smile, though. Finally Steve Cherundolo came out and walked past the phalanx of reporters.  No one stopped him until I shouted out his name.  I was wearing a Hannover jersey borrowed from Kurt (pulled over my USMNT jersey — real reporters don’t wear team kits I found out) and Steve smiled.  I introduced myself, and asked him about the result and the great game he’d had, firing cross after cross from the right into the box.  I asked him about the Hannover team he captains and led to their finest ever finish this year which will include Europa League play next season.  Then I realized I didn’t have my digital recorder set to record.  UGHHHHHHH !!!.  By then it was time for him to move on, and I even somehow messed up the photo.  Still, Steve was very gracious to a less than professional reporter.

Although a bit disheartened, good things come to those who persist. Jermaine Jones came down the corridor a few minutes later.  He was pretty well ignored by the media and I said hello. He stopped and I asked him some questions, and he too was gracious and accommodating.  Somehow I messed up on the photo again, but at least this time I hit the record button and the short interview came out well.

Tired but satisfied, I caught up with Kurt after taking the elevator up instead of down – got into the car and made the drive back home across Missouri.

One Response
  1. Charlie Mathews permalink
    June 21, 2011

    You may be a little green as a reporter but you are a good writer. I love this article because it is so raw. My advice would be to keep wearing the team kits and never become a “real reporter”, it’s what makes your articles so enjoyable. Cheers.

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