September 2, 2014
Enrique Macaya Márquez, journalistTuesday, March 18, 2014
‘Argentina may be in title contention but it has to improve’
Buenos Aires, November 20, 1934
Job: Journalist for TV production company Torneos
Studies: Ended his secondary school studies in trade at the Hipólito Vieytes school
Favourite newspapers: Clarín, La Nación and Página/12.
The tally began in 1958 in Sweden, and Enrique Macaya Márquez will set another record when he attends his 15th World Cup in a row in Brazil. The renowned journalist began his career at the El Mundo radio station when he was 15 years old, and has been working in television since 1966. He now works for the Torneos sports television production firm. He sat down with the Herald at a café in the Palermo neighbourhood to talk about soccer and the media. A real porteño gentleman, he also insisted on paying the bill. “I am from another era,” he says.
How have you managed to attend 14 World Cups?
Luck. I’ve gone through many changes in my career. I worked for Channel 7 for a long time and every time management changed, I was in danger of losing my job. When Onganía’s coup d’état happened in 1966 — my first year working on television —, I was in England for the World Cup. I was not fired, simply because I was abroad. Before that I had started working in El Mundo radio station when I was 15 as an administrative clerk.
How did you attend your first World Cup?
I worked for El Mundo, covered sports in Libertad, but worked from Sweden for the Belgrano radio station. It took us 32 hours to reach the south of Sweden. A car was waiting for us in Hamburg but we realized, on the plane, that it went to Frankfurt so I learned the few words in German I needed to buy train tickets. It was incredible!
What do you expect for Brazil?
I was there during the Confederations Cup. There are some small problems that I think they will not be able to solve. The World Cup will go ahead, though. I noticed some disadvantages for the media there. For example, the elevator in some stadiums was used by both the media and disabled people so it was always busy. FIFA usually takes care of the media so I think this situation will improve for the World Cup. TV rights are very expensive. Brazil will be broadcast on public television, which will take on the Cup’s entire audience. When Channel 11 bought the rights, it shared the broadcast with Channel 13 in order to split the spending. It’s not good business to take on the entire audience if you’re losing money. Torneos will cover the tournament for cable.
Were you surprised when Brazil was named as host country?
FIFA is always politically correct. It has more affiliated countries than the United Nations — its power is huge! They named Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host because it’s a rich country, so now they’ll have to deal with the weather and have a good hard think about holding the event in January.
South America is very important for FIFA because of the TV rights. That is why the FIFA vice-president is South American. (Julio) Grondona is in charge of finances.
Has Argentina any chance of hosting another World Cup?
Conditions are not right at the moment but when FIFA has to return to South America, which country could they choose if not Argentina?
How do you deal with travelling?
I travel comfortably. Torneos knows that we are the face of the firm and gives us the treatment we deserve. It’s a solid firm.
Was it hard for Torneos to lose the TV rights for the domestic soccer league?
Yes. Obviously. Personally, I lost my programme but it’s a TV producer that knows what it’s doing.
What do you think about the failed incorporation of TV producer Marcelo Tinelli in “Fútbol para Todos”?
I only know what was said in the media. I’ve worked with Marcelo (Araujo) for a long time and we have the same relationship as before, but nothing more than that.
Have you ever been invited to work on the programme?
At the start of the project, but I am not sure if it was Marcelo (Araujo) who decided to ask me because he wanted me to work with him or if the producer was interested in my work. Neither Torneos nor I wanted to end the contract.
Many details of the issue never came to light, but I’ve understood the way politics is connected with sports since my work at Channel 7 (public television). I lived through all the coups d’état, even the democratic coups; each time the government has been in the hands of one party or another, or even one faction of the same party, journalists have changed.
Why do you think the relationship between politics and sports is so tight?
Because it’s a good way of controlling the population. Obviously it’s not fair, but this has always happened. Most of the time I had to start from scatch and start climbing back to my previous position.
I am not against hiring those journalists who agree with the internal faction of the ruling party, but I don’t agree with their capacities. I am sure that there are more suitable journalists among them. I also think that the public broadcaster has to open the broadcast up to private advertisers. The government has already reached its aim, which is to introduce political ideas to the population.
But the rating drops considerably during half-time...
But they’ve already achieved what they wanted. The benefits of broadcasting the domestic soccer league on public television is getting people used to that. One thing is a public broadcast for people who want to watch soccer and another is that those who don’t want to watch soccer have to pay for it. It’s not for free, all of us pay for it (through taxes).
Could Argentina take the World Cup title in Brazil?
No. Those who might are Germany, Brazil and Spain. Argentina may be in title contention but it has to improve. It was drawn in a good group but World Cups are different — underdogs can be full of surprises.
Are you happy with the team?
They may swap three or four players but that’s just part of managing a team. You have to achieve balance.
Fans usually demand to see players like Tevez...
People want to see players where they are not needed. It would be different if Argentina had the best back line in the world and players weren’t called up, but it’s not like this. He might be a better defender but the coach also has to think about the team’s collective functioning. It’s easy to improvise in attack but not in defence. Sabella seems certain about his choices.
Why has Argentina failed to win a World Cup since 1986?
It’s had poorer performances than its rivals. The Argentine team back then had special characteristics, as they did in 1978 despite the suspicions of match-fixing that surrounded them.
Were you under pressure during the dictatorship and especially at the 1978 World Cup?
They urged us to take a homogeneous point of view, but we felt no pressure. Once, we did a programme on public television criticizing the national team the same day we received a statement from the military banning criticism. Nothing happened. I don’t think many people from the government saw the programme. Young people think that everybody knew about the atrocities that were happening during the dictatorship but we were very naive.
1978 team members tend to say that the suspicions of match-fixing overshadow their sporting achievement. Do you agree with them?
I think theirs was a deserved victory. It’s not easy to win the final. What’s more, people supported the team regardless of their more political activities. The Dutch did not attend the honorary dinner in what was a clear snub, but the average person wasn’t bothered by it. Soccer in Argentina takes you to hell or to the Casa Rosada (Government House), based on whether your team manages to achieve a good result or a bad one.
Maradona or Messi?
It’s difficult to compare players from different decades. Messi has not yet reached his maximum level of maturity — I’m talking about leadership. His teammates refer to him as a leader on the field, but a real leader is more than that. It was a smart decision to name him captain as it encourages him through the process of becoming a leader.
Do Argentine fans tend to always overrate the national team’s chances in the World Cup?
People usually think that being a soccer player is easy but the players feel a huge amount of pressure. It happens. Apart from being popular, soccer is incorporated into cultural identity.