Thursday, 1 July 2010

Interview - Our Man on the Inside

As a blog that concentrates specifically on watching sport on TV (not that we don’t watch it live fellow enthusiasts. We do, and berluddy enjoy it as well) we thought we’d try and approach our subject from a different angle. Influenced by our blog hero and inspiration Danny at European Football Weekends we decided we’d seek out an interview with someone involved in the old TV Sports game and are pretty happy with the scoop we’ve pulled off here.

We tried to get Adrian Chiles, Alan Hansen and even Gabriel Clarke but to no avail and just when all hope was looking lost we pulled this gem out of the bag!

Yes, it’s EVS operator for ITV’s coverage of the World Cup: Steven ‘Cheets’ Cheetham!

A marginally easier interview to get from the TV Sports World due to him being my old housemate, Cheets took time the time to answer a few questions all the way from Sarf Afreeka.

So Cheets, first things first, what are you doing for ITV out in SA?
Well Dave, first of all I'm not actually working for ITV I'm actually working for HBS - Host Broadcasting Services (DTVSr: sincere apologies to HBS.) Basically they show all the games, but they get companies from different countries to provide the crews to work on them. ITV have two English crews out here, the team I'm in do any games that are at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

We do all the match coverage from games at those two stadiums and have done 12 games so far with one quarter final to go (Spain v Paraguay). We basically show all the slow motion replays during the games and build players wraps, closers etc. (DTVSr: oh aye, player wraps and closers.) My job is a bit different from what I usually do as I have to build a 3 and a half minute highlights edit of the game for half time and full time. It gets played out at the end of each half and the commentator voices it as it’s played out. This goes round the world to any broadcasters who can use it as they like.

So do you get to go to any games while you’re there?
We've not been to any games while we're out here so far as they have all been sold out (DTVSr: that’s just the two stadiums Cheets works at readers.) We could have gone to the first Holland game as tickets were still on sale but it was early in the trip and after a heavy night out and no-one actually realised this until just after kick off. Its difficult to go as most games that are local we work on, we could go to games at Soccer city as this is also in Johannesburg but they have all been sold out and I'm told it's a dodgy area to go flashing your money around trying to get tickets outside. We are looking to go to the quarter final between Uruguay and Ghana on Friday though which would be good.

What do you get up to in your spare time then?
We haven't had much time off to be honest. We got here a few days before the tournament started but had to go to the grounds and make sure that everything was set up and working properly and sort out accreditation etc. Then most days since the games started, we generally work two or three days in a row and then get a day off. When we work on the early games we get back in time to go to the hotel bar and watch the later kick off.

Then we have been out into town a fair bit, where we are based there is a big mall right outside with lots of bars and restaurants. It seems like quite a safe area where we are and there are a lot of people with loads from different countries about. I've basically been doing a lot of drinking and eating steaks. When we have had a day off we've tried to do a few different things.

The first day-off we went to a fan park and watched Argentina v South Korea. That was good as although its winter over here its still boiling in the day and it’s not until the sun goes in that it gets pretty cold. We had a good drink, took a ball with us and had a kick about with some South Africans. One of the lads we’re working with used to live out here as well and one of his old friends had a BBQ one night that we all went to.

Another day we went to a safari park and had a look at some lions and stuff (DTVSr: Good in-depth stuff this mate.) It was amazing as we actually got to go in with some lion cubs.

Today we went on a bike ride through Soweto which was real eye-opener to see how some people have to live over here. The kids were all really happy though, we played football with them and they were jumping all over us.

Have you had any other contact with many of the locals?
We have had a bit in bars and at the fan fest we played football with some who also had a few drinks with us afterwards. They have been very friendly on the whole and just happy to be hosting it.
That first day was awesome when they had their first game. People were out on the streets dressed up everywhere. It took us hours to get to the ground as the traffic was just backed up but was a really good atmosphere. It was good when they beat France too and a shame when they went out as it was fun having them in the tournament.

Today in Soweto everyone was very friendly and waving and posing for pictures. The kids would run and try and high five us as we rode past and then when we walked round the houses they walked with us and were holding hands and jumping on everyone.

Great stuff, you had much/any contact with many travelling fans from the various teams?
We’ve had a fair bit of contact with travelling fans when we go out at night. There have been a lot of South Americans staying round here, first it was mainly Argentina fans about and then a lot of Mexicans. There’s even been some New Zealand fans (DTVSr: To be fair they were in the tournament Cheets) and we generally just get talking to people after a few beers.

I've also had to go out with a camera man as he films all the crowds arriving at the games to get fan shots and colour which has been good seeing the different fans and how they act. The Chile fans at their game v Spain game were awesome, best I’ve seen so far

Back to your work then, do you get to do much hob-nobbing with the celebs of the ITV sports team? How do they react to you lads on the technical side?
To be honest we don't really see that side of things. We are just at the games doing actual match coverage. All the presentation for ITV is in a building called the IBC that is near Soccer City so they are all in a studio there rather than at the ground. I saw Adrian Chiles, Southgate and Townsend in a bar that we go in quite a lot. Kevin Keegan was in a restaurant we went in one night and when we watched England v Algeria Danny Mills and Robbie Savage walked into our hotel bar and watched it in there.

Any funny stories from that side of things?

A refreshingly brisk answer Cheets. Do you have to deal with foreign TV crews as well? Is there a power struggle (ala sun loungers around the pool) for equipment use/good spots?
The foreign crews are mainly doing games in other areas of the country so we don’t really see them. There is a French crew that we see about but don’t really have much to do with them. There is a rivalry as when you watch the other crew's games you look for how they are doing it to see if it’s any better or worse than how we do things.

This is the first one I’ve been on so am new to it all but from what people say the English crews are generally regarded as doing the best match coverage. Then again there could be a French team also saying that so who knows? There’s no battling for sun loungers moments as such but if there was I think there’s more of us so we’d have them.

That's the spirit! To the action then, who’s impressed you so far? What did you make of England?
England were awful. Can’t believe how bad we were, thought winning the group and avoiding Germany would be massive and we couldn’t even do that although not sure we’d have done any better against Ghana. I actually watched the game in the fan park and there were a lot of Germans about. The disallowed goal was a big moment but they carved us open so many times that I don’t think it made much difference.

I’ve been impressed with the usual lot. Argentina have looked good. Brazil have looked decent. The Germans have been good and I think they might win it if they can beat Argentina. Also Chile and Uruguay have all looked pretty decent. As for players Messi has looked good even though he’s not scored. I thought Veron was awesome in the last group game and he’s still one of my favourite players. Ozil for Germany looks very good and I want United to sign him
but I think that’s very unlikely (DTVSr: Fortunately it is Cheets.) David Villa looks awesome, David Silva can f*** off (DTVSr: bit harsh.) Sneijder is quality too.

What are you missing about home (other than the Dave’sTVSports team obviously?)
Just Dave of Dave’sTVSports. That’s it! I don’t know really, it’s gone really quick and been pretty busy so I haven’t really had that much time to think about home that much. It’s been a bit weird living in a hotel for a month though, I feel like Partridge.

I kind of miss being home to watch all the matches. It’s weird that I’m over here working on the World Cup and I don’t think I’ve ever seen less games in a tournament. We generally miss the other games being played the same days we work so I only see the ones we work on and then some on our days off. If I was at home I reckon I’d have seen pretty much every game.

What I am going to miss about being here is being fed and given beer every time I finish a shift. As we are at the ground all day we get a meal when we get there and then when we finish we have our dinner (DTVSr: It’s ‘tea’ Cheets, we’re Northern) and there is beer in a cool box and wine on the table. I don’t think I’ll get that when I get back home.

Have you been able to keep up with the comings and goings of the last ever Big Brother?
I’ve not seen a single thing from Big Brother, I’m gutted. I haven’t even seen pictures of anyone that’s in it. Think that’s probably a good thing but it’ll be the first one I haven’t watched from start to finish.

Did you know a match at Wimbledon went to 70-68 in the last set?
I did see that about the tennis and the guy got knocked out a couple of days later because he was exhausted. I also hear Murray is playing well. Not seen any of it and if he gets to the final it’s the day we travel home so not sure if we will even get to see that...but tennis is gay so who cares. I’ve seen a bit of the cricket as well. Nice to hear us having a bit of success in that at least.

Well I’m sure if Novak Djokovic, Sue Barker or Jeremy Bates were reading this they’re not anymore. To finish, aren’t Vuvuzelas great?
Vuvuzelas are f****** loud! The first few days everyone had one. In the streets, shops, bars, restaurants…everywhere. That was quite annoying if you were trying to eat a meal and someone’s blowing one of them down your ear hole. It calmed down a bit after a few days though. I don’t mind them at the grounds and I’ve not really noticed it that much when I watch on TV or am working on the game. I’m definitely bringing one back if I can cram it in my suitcase.

Well we look forward to a genuine South African Vuvuzela arriving at DTVSr towers early next week. Many thanks for the interview Cheets.
No probs.

Steve will have worked on ITV1's highlights programme featuring Spain v Paraguay this Saturday at 22:30.

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