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Novy Kapadia has been a regular in the Indian football commentary space since 1980.
Novy Kapadia has been a regular in the Indian football commentary space since 1980.

Novy Kapadia: World Cup final is the easiest match to commentate on

India's foremost football commentator opens up about his experiences in the commentary box and international venues

A lot depends on the World Cup finals—the dreams of an entire nation rest upon the shoulders of players who know that if they lose this one, the chance to lift the trophy will be pushed back by another four years. Team strategies need to be spot on.

Strategies are not restricted just to the football field. Commentators have their own set of goals to follow behind the mike. Sports writer and expert Novy Kapadia, 66, has been commentating on the World Cup for more than three decades, both for radio and television.

“The World Cup final is the easiest to do. It’s much tougher to do a Subroto Cup final or a Panama versus Tunisia match. For a World Cup, you are flooded with information for one month. It’s not all that difficult," says Kapadia, during a phone interview.

Kapadia, who has been in the profession since 1980, knows that he is catering to an Indian audience and shapes his commentary accordingly. He keeps in mind that most times his listeners are part of a Hindi-speaking demographic. He does daily studio shows in Hindi and commentates in Hindi for Sony Ten 3 and updates on BBC Radio 1.

“Commentating for a Hindi audience is a different experience. The Hindi audience is completely different from the upwardly mobile English-speaking audience who are constantly on football apps and websites. You have to draw connections with India, as far as possible," says Kapadia, who recently commentated on the Europa League final between Atletico Madrid and Marseille for Sony Ten 3 in May.

One such instance of an India connection was in the 2014 World Cup final between Argentina and Germany. Julián Camino, who was part of Alejandro Sabella’s coaching team, had a short spell with East Bengal in 1988. He made a handful of appearances for East Bengal before being let go because of financial constraints at the Kolkata-based club.

Venue vibes

Be it the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata or the Soccer City in Johannesburg, the atmosphere in a stadium adds to the proceedings as well.

Apart from the ebb and flow of the contest, a good commentator highlights the turning points of a match—injuries to crucial players, a substitution that changed the course of the match or when managers change their team’s formation.

Kapadia explains how the media centre also makes it click. He recalls the 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands in Johannesburg. “The atmosphere was phenomenal. You have hundreds of commentators around you speaking different languages. Johannesburg was bitingly cold because it was the South African winter. We were there from the quarter-finals.

“You also meet some of the biggest names in football at the media centre. I remember meeting Arsène Wenger in 2010...he was surprisingly free to have a chat for a few minutes," Kapadia adds.

Stadium facilities are also important. Commentators have their own space, complete with their own viewing monitors for more details. That’s what made his experiences at USA-1994 and South Africa-2010 World Cups exciting.

Even the recent U-17 World Cup hosted in India in October, Kapadia adds, was well-organized. He also commentated on the final between England and Spain held in Kolkata for All India Radio.

Kapadia recently released an updated edition of his 2014 book, The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide—World Cup Special. Apart from chapters on previous World Cups, the book has a group-wise prediction for the 2018 World Cup, a section on players to be watched, VAR (video assistant referee) and video assistant replay medical, which will keep a close eye on concussions and other head injuries.

Having watched the World Cup down the years quite closely, he admits the quality of football on display has somewhat changed. “The last good World Cup final was when Germany beat the Netherlands in 1974. I had seen it on a black and white TV—it was a delayed TV coverage, but we heard it on BBC radio. All the 90 minutes were exciting," he adds.

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