Wednesday 30 November 2022, 12:00

World Cup tales through the eyes of the storytellers

Recognising the media’s role in making football the world’s most popular sport, FIFA paid tribute in Doha to the longevity and commitment of the journalists who have covered eight or more FIFA World Cup™ tournaments. A special ceremony was held in conjunction with the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) for almost 80 journalists and photographers who have reached that milestone, bringing dedication, knowledge and insight to both their profession and football, and relaying the emotions of the tournament to fans around the world.

With the FIFA World Cup 2022 being played in a single city in Doha, it was a unique opportunity to bring the media together and meant that all of the journalists could attend and receive their awards - a mini-replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy - from two-time Brazil World Cup winner Ronaldo.

As well-known Brazilian TV journalist Galvão Bueno said, the recognition “was like having our souls caressed.” There is, of course, little substitute for first-hand lived experience. Among the attendees at the ceremony was enough collective knowledge and personal anecdotes to fill an entire shelf of books. Most fans might dream of simply meeting Pelé. For Bueno, he found himself hugging the iconic figure as Brazil won the 1994 World Cup. “The 1994 World Cup is the one I keep close to my heart,” said the man who has covered a barely believable 13 World Cups dating back to 1974. “It had been 24 years since Brazil won a title and I was working alongside Pelé, and Arnaldo Cézar Coelho who was the ref in the ‘82 World Cup Final and with whom I’ve worked for 30 years.

FIFA Legends Assignment in Sao Paulo DAY 1 - Galvao Bueno interview

“And in that euphoric moment [at the final whistle], the host broadcaster, with all the cameras from all around the world, were focused on Pelé celebrating; we were hugging, and this is an image that became famous around the world. Tetra or Tetracampeão, an expression that means the fourth title won by Brazil, became a victory chant across the country.” Bueno is better placed than anyone to answer an age-old discussion: which Brazilian team was the greatest? The answer would perhaps surprise many. “The best Brazil squad I’ve seen was the one that played in 1961. I hadn’t started working in football yet - I started in 1974 - but it was the best team I’ve seen play. Another squad that played wonderfully well was the one in ‘82. They didn’t win the title, but that’s what history says.”

AIPS / FIFA Journalist on the Podium ceremony  - José Antonio Fernando Nürnberg

José Antonio Fernando Nurnberg is another journalist whose career has launched into the stratosphere after touching greatness. “I remember the 1986 World Cup a lot because I had to cover every Argentina game,” says the Bolivian whose resume includes 11 World Cups. “I did eight exclusive interviews with Diego Armando Maradona when there were lots of journalists, especially in the final stage of the tournament, when Argentina were already the biggest favourites. “At the start of the tournament, over the first two games, journalists didn’t even turn up. Argentina got to the World Cup without the trust of their own supporters. There were only a few journalists who spoke with them at the Argentina headquarters in the Club América training centre, apart from the Argentinian journalists. Luckily, one of the interviews I did [with him] skyrocketed my sports journalist career, which was two days before the Final. “I gave him [Maradona] a golden badge from my hometown Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It was a tribute since he was already becoming the new king of football. It wasn't an interview, it was a gesture of recognition from myself and from the community I represent. He took it in a very personal way. That clip, after his death, has had almost 3 million views on Facebook.”

AIPS / FIFA Journalist on the Podium ceremony  - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

USA journalist Grant Wahl has seen his career straddle the significant growth of the game in his homeland. Dating back to his first tournament at home in 1994, Wahl journalistic odyssey is primed to come full circle when the world’s greatest football show returns Stateside in 2026 with USA co-hosting along with Canada and Mexico. “I have been doing this job long enough now to see the sport of football (soccer) change in the United States,” Wahl said. “It has become a very popular sport and when I started it was not a very popular sport. “So, having the World Cup in the United States in 1994 had a huge impact on growing the sport and we started a men’s league in 1996 and have a women’s league now. The success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999, those FIFA events were enormous in making soccer more popular. “I see where we are now and yes, the business of football is big now in the United States, but so is the actual sport. We have pretty good teams now, and so that makes me very happy and also very excited about where the sport is going to go in the United States in decades to come.”