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FWA Q&A: Tim Vickery

TIM VICKERY on his dislike of walking in Venezuela…disrespecting Kaka’s voice…and Alfredo the great…

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
Take your pick – paper boy, menswear shop assisant, labourer, comedy writer, box office assistant, theatre manager, English teacher.

Most memorable match?
Think I’ll go with the 1992 European Cup final, Barcelona v Sampdoria at Wembley. London turned into the Mediterranean for a few days, and a wonderfully enthralling game got a historic result in the last minute. I lapped it up.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Pele and Bobby Moore together after the 1970 World Cup match between England and Brazil – a fantastic match in which these great players performed to full capacity, winning the respect of each other and friendship in the process.

Best stadium…and worst?
South America is full of stadiums where you’re breathing the air of the history of the game – the Centenario in Montevideo and La Bonbonera in Buenos Aires are personal favourites (not least because you can walk to both from the centre of town).  But there’s a new one (2007) which for me could fit into the category of best and worst – the Metropolitano in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. It was built for the 2007 Copa América, and it was bizarre to see a compact, English model stadium in relatively small town Venezuela. Very impressive – except that it was nowhere near ready when it opened for the Copa – it was a building site, full of empty lift shafts, though it looked great on TV. My big complaint about it, though, is that it’s so far out of town – a pet hate of mine, especially when there are no mass transport options.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
I know my limitations. Stick to pen and paper, mate. Biggest disaster was when I forgot to take a pen.

Biggest mistake?
Too many to mention but a couple stand out. My first piece for World Soccer magazine was a profile of a Brazilian goalkeeper with German ancestry.  I foolishly commented that this was the perfect combination, some Teutonic steel to balance out the local flair. I should have known that Brazil’s defensive record is and always has been, way superior to Germany’s. Lesson – take no myth for granted.

Or a few months back on Brazilian TV. Kaká had just been recalled to the national team even though he was not getting a game for Real Madrid. I couldn’t resist the easy quip, saying that the only explanation for his comeback was that he has been singing the national anthem very well. It was a lack of respect to a quality player, who proved me wrong when he slotted successfully into the side.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Charlton Heston (when he was still alive). I recommended a good optician.

Most media friendly manager?
In Brazil they tend to be very media friendly.

Best ever player?
Pele, Maradona, Messi – genius in all of them.  But hard to believe that anyone has been as influential as Alfredo Di Stéfano.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Barcelona of recent years (they have brought back the little player) and Brazil of 1958 – without the media of 70 but far better man for man.

Best pre-match grub?
Doesn’t happen over here. We don’t get fed.

Best meal had on your travels?
A good old Ruby Murray every time I come back home.

…and the worst?
Can’t remember what it was in Colombia that had me up all night vomiting.

Best hotel stayed in?
Any time, anywhere – providing someone else is paying.

…and the worst?
A place in Cali, Colombia that I checked into, paid for a night up front, had a little nap and then noticed did not have running water.  Needless to say, I was paying for the place myself.

Favourite football writer?
Hughie Mac.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Peter Jones/Brian Moore.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Let me in whenever I want – don’t need anything else – just want to watch the game and come to my own conclusions.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Ashes in Oz.

Last book read?
Thatcher’s Britain by Richard Vinen.

Favourite current TV programme?
Discovered Law and Order SVU during the last Copa América. Got hooked. Think I’ve shaken it now.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
Copy of the autobiography of the late and undoubtedly great Zizinho, signed to me.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Don’t expect wealth or security, and always remember that your subject is more important than yourself.

Tim Vickery has lived in Brazil since 1994. A regular contributor to World Soccer and Sports Illustrated, he can be heard on 5Live and talkSPORT. Twitter: @Tim_Vickery

Next week: The Q&A world tour continues in Asia with Michael Church.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Patrick Barclay

    March 26, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Yet another riveting read for any football writer – what an excellent chap Vickery is. I especially loved his confessions. Also must try to find some video of the 1958 Brazilians. Man for man, they must indeed have been the best side ever.

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