Charles Nyende and the Herculean World Cup task that awaits our man in Qatar

South Korea players

Players of team South Korea arrive on a Qatar airways flight at Hamad International Airport, in the Qatari capital Doha on November 14, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup football tournament.



Photo credit: STF | AFP

What you need to know:

  • It’s an assignment that, ideally, would have been serviced by 10 journalists with camerapersons, technicians and producers in tow
  • Technology certainly makes lives easier, but for journalists like Nyende, the final whistle on December 18 will certainly signal a stampede to the Hamad Airport for the earliest flight home, and a well-earned rest
  • Our readers, listeners and viewers should look no further than what promises to be exciting, ubiquitous multi-media coverage from our indefatigable man in Qatar

This week, our colleague at the Nation Media Group’s Sports Desk, Charles Nyende, heads to Qatar to cover the Fifa World Cup for our various platforms.

Contrary to what many assume when such assignments occur, it’s not yet another holiday or merry-making junket “synonymous with the sports desk.”

It’s a deployment to dread.

Sports journalism has evolved over the years, and with technology having revolutionised how we report sport, media house budgets have, co-incidentally, shrunk and more pressure subsequently piled on sports journalists who now have to perform the Herculean task on multi-media reporting from major competitions.

Nyende’s assignment in Doha, isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Basically, to serve our platforms, “Sir Charles” will have to deliver content for our print, television, radio and online platforms, almost real-time!

And our sister newsrooms in Kampala and Dar-es-salaam might also seek his indulgence, meaning poor old Sir Charles (as we fondly refer to former Kenya rugby international Nyende) might need a 26-hour day to break even.

It’s an assignment that, ideally, would have been serviced by 10 journalists with camerapersons, technicians and producers in tow.

Poor old Charlie…

No, his mobile phone won’t be for selfies with football stars, it will be an essential tool of trade.

He might not even have a minute to sample Doha’s attractions, enjoy a cup of coffee at the beautiful, iconic Doha Corniche, shop at the famous traditional Souq Waqif market, or indeed explore the Museum of Islamic Art.

Technologically-speaking, Qatar 2022 will be a World Cup of many firsts.

From air-conditioned stadiums to special visas, semi-automated off-side technology (an improvement on the Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, system), five substitutions and 26-player rosters.

And, yes, for the first time in the history of the men’s Fifa World Cup, some matches will be officiated by female referees, with Japan’s Yamashita Yoshimi, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Stephanie Frappart from France the pioneering ladies at the centre.

There will be 36 centre referees in all.

Yoshimi, Mukansanga and Frappart will be backed by female assistant referees Neuza Back (Brazil), Karen Diaz Medina (Mexico) and American Kathryn Nesbitt who join the pool of 69 assistant referees.

Qatar 2022 will also have 24 video assistant referees.

Technology certainly makes lives easier, but for journalists like Nyende, the final whistle on December 18 will certainly signal a stampede to the Hamad Airport for the earliest flight home, and a well-earned rest.

Sports journalism has evolved pretty fast over the years and reflections on the coverage of the early World Cup tournaments are hilarious.

Like the recollections US-based author Clemente Lisi gathers in his exciting book, The Fifa World Cup, A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event, which we are currently serialising at Nation Sport.

Lisi writes that with no journalist at hand to cover the first Fifa World Cup in Montevideo in 1930, Belgian referee John Langenus moonlighted by compiling match reports which he sent by ship from Montevideo to Europe for publication, weeks later!

For those who missed it, Lisi digs up the archives as thus:

“Langenus had already officiated three games at the tournament as the main match official, and two others as a linesman.

“He had also officiated at the 1928 Olympics, although this game would turn out to be the biggest of his career.

“Langenus had been on the receiving end of criticism, most notably in the semi-final between Argentina and the United States when he whistled a foul against the Americans.

“Curiously, Langenus was also tasked with working as a journalist, writing up dispatches and sending them back to Europe via ship.

“The German soccer magazine Kicker, which did not send a correspondent to the tournament, ran Langenus’s reports of the first-round matches near the end of July.

“The report regarding the World Cup final appeared a month after it had been contested. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a negative word said regarding the refereeing that had taken place...”

Well, thank God, “Sir Charles” will be filing real-time, not sending dispatches to Nation Centre by ship!

Advanced CIS (Commentator Information System), available in the media tribute, and intranet offered by Fifa means that Nyende and all reporters on location will have the live World Cup facts and figures available at the click of a button.

The 102-year-old Kicker magazine – founded by German football pioneer Walther Bensemann - will certainly not rely on the match referee for dispatches from Doha, but has sent a battery of journalists to cover die Mannschaft’s campaign in the desert.

But “Sir Charles” will slog it alone!

Our readers, listeners and viewers should look no further than what promises to be exciting, ubiquitous multi-media coverage from our indefatigable man in Qatar… in, inter alia, the Daily Nation, Saturday Nation, Sunday Nation, Taifa Leo, Taifa Jumapili, Business Daily, NTV, Nation FM and Nation.Africa...

Safe skies, “Sir Charles.” Let the games begin!

Makori is the Managing Editor (Sports) at Nation Media Group.

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