REX GOWAR on Maradona being called fatty…a dodgy Tiger in Seoul…and missing out on Messi
Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
Paint shop manager, teacher, photographer. I was almost 30 when I started my media writing career at the Buenos Aires Herald, Argentina’s English language newspaper.
Most memorable match?
Two, the 1978 and 1986 World Cup finals. I watched the first from “la popular”, the higher banks of terraces behind the goals, in this case the one where Kempes scored both his goals, Naninga headed the Dutch equaliser and Rensenbrink hit the post. Victory ended years of Argentine agony watching big rivals Brazil and Uruguay lift world titles and the need to give substance to a belief of superiority.
The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
The match when a teenage Maradona put four goals past Boca Juniors Hugo Gatti playing for Argentinos Juniors days after being called a fatty by the goalkeeper. That and other moments of Maradona magic before his first big money move to Boca Juniors. He was to the modest Argentinos side in the late 70s what he became for Napoli and Argentina in the mid-80s.
River Plate. Apart from being the stadium where I saw my first matches (and bias because they are my team), I have great memories of “shooting” matches there and at many other Buenos Aires grounds in my earlier career as a sports photographer.
…and the worst?
Platense in the Honduran city of Puerto Cortes when on a fact-finding trip three months before the 2010 World Cup finals though I can’t complain about the atmosphere. Good thing I didn’t need to file anything from there.
Your personal new-tech disaster?
Luckily nothing major.
Not interviewing a teenage Messi in Geneva in 2005 when Argentina played England and he was suspended. I didn’t have an appointment but I’m sure I could have talked to him when he’d finished with another journalist in an empty lounge at the team’s hotel if I had had the sense to wait around.
Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Depends what you mean by mistaken. I was at a match at the small Atlanta ground, during the 1978 World Cup, between European and South American media but featuring lots of golden oldies — Di Stefano, Kopa, the Charlton brothers and Ian St John in the European side, Sivori, Artime, Onega for the South Americans and someone in the stands shouted “Tarantini” as I emerged from the tunnel in that exalted company… I regret not taking up the offer to fill a gap they had at full back for the Europeans but I had a bad knee that was sure to give way again at Onega’s first swerve past me.
Most media friendly manager?
Carlos Bilardo… and I recall Bobby Robson being very approachable in Montevideo during England’s 1984 tour of South America.
Best ever player?
Best ever teams (club and international)?
That I’ve seen live, Ronaldinho’s Barcelona team with a young Messi, the Independiente side which in 1985 won the Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup and Brazil at the 1982 World Cup.
Best pre-match grub?
At a rugby match, laid on by the organisers at the Heineken Cup final in Bordeaux between Brive and Bath in 1997, a French feast.
Best meal had on your travels?
A barbeque at Conmebol president Nicolas Leoz’s ranch outside Asuncion on occasion of a South American Football Confederation general assembly.
…and the worst?
Korean fast food at the Tomorrow Tiger in Seoul during the 1988 Olympic Games. We were two Reuters journalists writing for the Spanish Language Service until all hours of the night and this was the only place we found open… night after night.
Best hotel stayed in?
The Aloft in Abu Dhabi for the 2010 Club World Cup, great buffet breakfast and superb pool.
…and the worst?
A flea pit with sheets for walls between rooms in some remote part of the south of France while covering the Tour de France in 1997. The contrast could not have been greater when the next night we stayed at a chateau with its own wine label and ate like dukes. Don’t remember the names of either of them.
Favourite football writer?
In England, I’ve always liked reading David Lacey of football and Rob Kitson on rugby, in Argentina Ezequiel Fernandez Moores who writes a weekly column in La Nacion.
Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Martin Tyler, who I’ve known since the 1978 World Cup when we compared university notes and found he played as striker for East Anglia U against me in goal for Essex U in Norwich. I forget the score but have to concede it might have been 2-1 to them.
If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
It’s a pipe dream in modern football but let us arrange to speak to players when we want without having to go through a press officer who rarely answers the phone.
One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
I’ve been lucky to get to top games in a wide variety of sports but none of the major American sports so of these I’d go for a NFL Super Bowl.
Last book read?
A biography of Juan Sebastian Veron in Spanish called “El Lado V” and I am now reading Jonathan Wilson’s The Outsider on goalkeepers.
Favourite current TV programme?
French police drama Spiral.
Your most prized football memorabilia?
A tape recording of an interview with a 19-year-old Maradona in 1980 before he travelled with Menotti’s Argentina to Europe to play England at Wembley. I did it for Shoot magazine but it was never published because of a printers’ strike in the UK. Talk about exclusive!
Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
None that has not already been given in this column by people far better qualified to give such advice.
REX GOWAR is a Buenos Aires-based Reuters sports correspondent for Latin America.
Next week the Q&A’s world tour ends with World Soccer editor Gavin Hamilton.