Sporza sends his sons out during the European Football Championship. Aster Nzeyimana and Peter Vandenbempt are two of them. One young, fresh and fruity, the other experienced, eloquent and a man of many wars. Aster and Peter have a lot in common, for example their preparation for the tournament.
For Aster Nzeyimana, the European Championship 2020 is his baptism of fire as a football commentator on a major tournament.
“My European Championship starts with the duel between Austria versus North Macedonia, in group C, which also includes the Netherlands and Ukraine,” Aster said in a European Championship special of our podcast De Tribune this week.
“A wonderful match! Because it is not because the poster does not immediately look flashy that the match must necessarily be disappointing.”
“No, I’m really looking forward to it. It is therefore my very first match as a commentator on a European Football Championship.”
“I can already set up the basic team of North Macedonia, yes. Although the national coach sometimes dares to vary. It is very nice to also immerse yourself in a football team like that of North Macedonia.”
Peter Vandenbempt: “My very first match on television was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa: Algeria against Slovenia. That’s kind of the same category. It wasn’t a good match (laughs).”
“The image with the commentators also fell away about 5 times, so that I had to give radio commentary again, as it were.”
“New energy at new tournament”
The European Championship is the apotheosis of a long football season that started last summer.
“After that campaign, which concluded with the Champions League final, I wondered: am I going to be able to charge for the European Championship right now? The question is yes! It would also be bad, because I am just starting”, says Aster Nzeyimana.
Peter Vandenbempt: “When a new tournament arrives, there is always a new kind of energy. At the end of a season we are all burned out by all that domestic and foreign football, but I have never thought: oh, now I have to yet to start a European Championship.”
“The past 2.5 weeks have been – taking all proportions into account, of course – the worst in the life of a football commentator.”
“If you want to do your job well, you are preparing from morning to night. I look up everything: what have those players done? Have they played a lot? Have they been injured? Were they a substitute or starting player? How many goals have they scored?…”
“That is a kind of basic preparation, coupled with reading a lot of international press. I also watched a lot of practice matches in the last week. It all takes a lot of time.”
When a new tournament arrives, it always creates a new kind of energy.
“Watch matches in the hotel room”
Is it important that your own national team is also there?
“I can’t say it out loud, but it’s more fun when the Belgians are there and do it well. That leads to an extra vibe in our own country,” says Vandenbempt.
“Nevertheless, in my career I have followed a lot of tournaments in which the Belgians were absent and even then I enjoyed myself incredibly.”
“But if your own national team is there and it does well, then it is doubly interesting. Like at the World Cup in Russia, where Belgium was one of the major attraction poles. Without exaggeration, Belgium was the most beloved football country in the world. Everyone spoke you about that great Belgian team. That was once different.”
The Sporza commentators are flying all over the European continent these days, although due to the circumstances, matches from Brussels will also be defeated.
“I have a lot of respect for the people of Sporza production. It has been an incredible job to arrange everything and, for example, to get all those commentators in the right place. With all the corona measures, PCR tests and the like,” says Aster Nzeyimana .
“It will eventually become a challenge not to miss a flight or to end up somewhere where you forget to have a test done. That would be something: being stuck somewhere, so that you can’t go to your next game.”
The freedom of movement of journalists is in any case limited to a necessary minimum, says Peter Vandenbempt.
“I initially thought a European Championship in all those European countries was a great idea, but they should have immediately canceled it last year in the full corona crisis and have all matches played in 1 country. Because in these circumstances this is madness.”
“There are guidelines that limit you to the airport or train station, the hotel and the football stadium. You are asked not to develop too many activities outside of that.”
“But that’s actually the case in every tournament. You prepare for your next match, work from morning to night and watch matches in your hotel room. That’s it.”