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World Cup 2014: Language barriers; interviewing World Cup players in Brazil can be a real challenge

Even with access to the Cup's stars, language is often the major barrier

Published on Jun 25, 2014 4:49 PM
 
THE mixed zone after a World Cup match can be a very stressful place to be. -- ST PHOTO: MARC LIM

THE mixed zone after a World Cup match can be a very stressful place to be.

First, you have to compete with over 50 journalists, jostling each other for choice positions so that you have an advantage once the players emerge from their dressing rooms and are forced to walk through the maze of reporters with microphones, voice recorders and notebooks.

Then, you have to get the players to talk to you.

Now coming from Singapore, which does not have a team at the World Cup, mixed zone access is a rare treat. So on the odd chance that Singapore media are alloted a slot, it is really up to you to make the most of it.

Unlike Olympic mixed zones, where there is often just one star the media are after following an event, football mixed zones leave you spoilt for choice.

Almost every first-team player will make the long walk - which can sometimes take 30 minutes to travel 20m, depending on how many interviews one grants. So a reporter can potentially have up to 22 targets.

Now the problem is when you do not speak the language of both teams. In this case, French for Cameroon and Portuguese for Brazil. So while I had a good position, my interview requests kept getting turned down.

From the start, I wanted to be focused, so I kept my eyes only on the Brazil players - no offence to Cameroon, but they were already out of the World Cup and this was, well, Brazil.

Even with the Brazilians, I focused on their England-based players, assuming they should be comfortable with one or two questions in English.

First up was Chelsea's Ramires, who just smiled and did a quick shuffle of his feet to evade my outstretched hand, as if I was some lurking Arsenal defender.

I had better luck with his club-mate David Luiz, who stopped right in front of me. But after listening to countless Portuguese questions and studying his designer watch - he smelled really good too - I tried my luck.

"Sorry, no English," he said with a smile that could melt a teen's heart. But hey, isn't there a YouTube video of you giving an interview in perfect English?

Next up - goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who was based in England but now plays in Canada.

"Sorry, can't do English," he said as he high-fived me, as if our hands making contact was some consolation. Besides, "can't do" sounds pretty doable to me.

And then when all hope seemed lost, Paulinho ensured my efforts were not in vain. He obliged with not only an interview but also useful insights into the mindset of the team.

"Obrigado," I said, offering my gratitude. But something tells me the next time I meet Brazil in the mixed zone, I had better have more than "Thank You".

marclim@sph.com.sg

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