June 21st, 2010
07:16 PM ET

The CNN back story: Covering the cup

It's June 21 already, are you kidding me? I landed in Johannesburg on June 4 and I simply can't believe two weeks have passed so quickly.

My job here is mainly to schedule and produce our presenter's live shots, and we've so many of them that the days just blow by like as quickly as the winter wind at Soccer City.

I simply haven't had time to blog, so you can imagine my delight in my assignment on Friday: Go to the U.S.-Slovenia match at Ellis Park, gather some post-match reaction from the players, and create a post-match feature with our reporter Alex Thomas.

As an American who intensely desires to see Team USA perform well at every World Cup, it's a double joy.

First, the ability to take in an official World Cup match, and second ­to see my team in official World Cup action!

Of course, as journalists your goal is to be impartial. And we do keep that objectivity when we need to, but more and more on our network we see the personalities, and humanity, of our staff come out on air.

Why can't an Englishman give opinions on his team, especially after such lack-luster snoozers? Or Pedro Pinto, our Portuguese presenter, completely feel the frustration with Ronaldo and company after a scoreless draw with Ivory Coast?

Anyway, the day started as every day starts here when you go to bed the previous night at 2 a.m. - in a frantic hurry. I forgot my favorite tool, ­ the mini-cam, and had to beg the media bus driver to run back to the room ahead of my trip to Ellis Park.

The reason I wanted to go so early is to secure that golden ticket:­ some passes to the so-called "mixed zone," ­ which is a mazy labyrinth of cubicle-type walls that players must walk through after the game, where many TV journalists want to get interviews.

Those tickets rest solely at the dispersal of HBS (Host Broadcasting Service), which is hired by FIFA to distribute the rights to show the matches, to create and distribute the TV signals to all rights-holding networks around the world, and to try to deal with us, the news.

On my way to the compound I saw two very curious signs.

This is the first winter World Cup since 1978, and many Johannesburg locals have said things like: "I've lived here all my life and I've never been as cold as I was last night!"

So on one HBS billboard was: "Achtung! Beware! Black Ice Around The Pitch." It's just that cold overnight!

And, of course, my favorite: "Absolutely No Blowing Vuvuzela On the Broadcast Compound. Anyone Found Blowing Vuvuzela Is Subject To A 1,000-Rand Fine."

I was amazed to see so many people inside the stadium grounds some six hours before the match. This is the fourth World Cup I've covered for CNN, but I have never figured out how NOT to be awed by it all.

To interact with people from all walks of life, from literally all over the world, who've come together to celebrate the beautiful game at its highest level.

Slovenia and the U.S. may have been adversaries on the pitch, but before the match kicked off, to see everyone dancing together while singing this World Cup's most memorable song, "Wavin' the Flag," was as unforgettable as that disallowed American goal.

Filed under:  Football
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Patricio

    Thank you for your coverage of the WC. I've enjoyed your tweets quite a bit too. Go USA team today! and go Chile on Friday!!

    June 23, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  2. ranndino

    Well said! I'd love to swap place with you.

    June 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  3. Chinedu Moghalu

    If Maurice Edu was playing for any other country, say Cote d'Ivoire, and Referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali disallowed his goal, would there have been any (media) outcry or brouhaha to the level we have seen displayed by the US. Really, would FIFA have paid any heed? Talk about being 'No 1 Country in the World!

    June 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  4. mimi

    Ditto!! Thanks for the flip cam video, too!!

    June 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  5. Philip Gibson

    Slow motion replays, which show the truth to the hundreds of millions watching on TV, but not to the referees, might be the real 'back story' of this world cup.

    For me, the most encouraging thing about the USA game was that Clinton and Blatter were sitting next to each other in the stands. I say this because the U.S. team spent much of the game facing elimination after their first goal was ruled offside. Hopefully, Clinton asked Blatter why FIFA don't allow the officials to take notice of the slow motion replays which give an accurate indication of players' positions as is the case in Americal football.

    June 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  6. mike

    In that regard concerning the use of modern technology to get the real issue of,offsides,fouls,disallowed goals,diving,shirt pulling and the like FIFA is like a dinosaur.The game has changed with the ball and boots more technology orientated.Why can't the referring step up to match?Because in most cases the weaker or poorer countries from Latin America or Africa are the ones who suffer injustice from the bad decision,today Torres dives a Chilean player gets the red card etc,Spain rich and european ,Chilie ,.poor and Latin American.Consequences for Torres from FIFA,not to be awaited.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:30 am | Reply
  7. Sergio

    WORLD CUP!!!!!!!! GO USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Reply

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