James Green is a colleague of ours. He is also a sports reporter & presenter who has just returned from reporting on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar for HBS and Gravity Media. I enjoyed having the opportunity of talking to him about his experiences over there and what made this World Cup so special.
I asked him how he felt going into the event? James said, “I was really excited to be there – the World Cup is the pinnacle of sports reporting and it’s not an opportunity you get very often. Having the World Cup in the Middle East was an interesting challenge too. When we were there, we found that about 80-90% of the locals were Argentina fans – it was all about Lionel Messi of course. Every time Argentina played, the stadium was packed. I remember when Argentina played Mexico, the stadium was absolutely swarming with fans going mad – in fact, I was videoing right in the middle of it when suddenly I disappeared from view in the throng!” He added, “But the whole experience showed you how much football means to people from all walks of life and from right round the world.”
Everyone was having a great time – no sign of trouble
I asked James what the atmosphere was like? He said, “I worked with some really great people, off-field too, and it was a privilege to meet broadcasters from some of the biggest media companies in the world. We were offered complimentary tickets to the Germany v Spain match – it didn’t take us long to decide to jump in a taxi and go, I can tell you!” James said, “It was part of the magic – a high-quality game with a completely different atmosphere to the England games”. All the stadiums are in close proximity, he added, so it was easy to get in and out of games – going from the hotel to the Germany v Spain match was just 20 minutes by taxi.
Next, I asked whether there was any sign of trouble? James said, “The camaraderie was amazing – everyone was joining in the World Cup experience, the fans were all really friendly. The workers and security people were all great too – there were no problems.” He added, “A lot of people had preconceptions about what it would be like – mostly negative – but as soon as we got there, we could see that everyone was having a great time.”
Football unites people from many cultures
What surprised you most, I asked? “A surprise was that the no-alcohol rule didn’t have any adverse impact – it was like the biggest party with fans from all around the world and there was no trouble whatsoever”, said James. “In fact, it made everyone feel safer and more comfortable – I remember the Euros at Wembley last year when there was trouble galore but, for example, there wasn’t an ounce of trouble during or at the end of the England v Wales game. Somehow, the common goal of enjoying football united people from many different cultures. Of course, there were some upsets – when Brazil was knocked out by Croatia and when Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia, but overall the atmosphere was fantastic.”
Will it be Argentina to win?
Then I asked James the Big One – who will win? “Well,”he said, “We could see an Argentina v France final, but will France win? France won the last World Cup and if they win this time, they’d be the first country to win back-to-back World Cups since before the Second World War – Italy did it in the 1930s.” He added, “Personally, I’d like to see Argentina win – it would be a very special moment for Lionel Messi, a player who’s adored around the world, and Argentina winning would cap off his remarkable career. His longevity, with nearly 800 goals, is incredible. Messi is a modern professional who plays to the very highest standard, and he’s raised the profile of football to a whole new level. It would be a special moment in all our lifetimes – reminiscent of Maradona in 1986.”
One of the best-ever World Cups
“Would you go back to Qatar, James?” James said he’d been to Doha before, “It’s a great place. I love it – it’s a new country that’s developing and learning; not perfect, but the locals are really welcoming. There are some fantastic restaurants and the food is amazing. You can go out to the desert to experience a bit of culture, but I wouldn’t advise that in the Qatar summer – it would be a bit hot then!” Overall, James thought the event was a huge success and that Qatar will undoubtedly be one of the best World Cups we’ve ever had.
I was really pleased that James has had such a positive experience. He is open-minded, passionate, determined, and he works extremely hard. The sports media world is very competitive, and for those aspiring to work in it, James is an example of what happens if you stick at it and believe in yourself. We wish him all the very best for his future career.