KOLKATA: Question for football fans in the country. What is the common thread that joins Mario Goetze’s winning goal in the 2014 World Cup, Andres Iniesta making history for Spain in 2010, Zinedine Zidane’s red card in Berlin four years earlier and Ronaldo’s double in Tokyo in 2002. The answer: John Helm. The British commentator has described some of the biggest sporting moments of the last few decades.
With more than 25 years of experience doing television commentary, Helm admits he has the best job in the world. “I love football. I’m paid to travel the world and watch football and talk about it. It can’t get better than that,” he tells Express. He is currently under FIFA contract, being a part of the commentary team for all FIFA events.
Such is his schedule that he has two passports. Not because he has dual citizenship, but because he has to travel. “At one given time, one of my passports is in some country’s embassy while I’m away on work,” he says. Consider this, over the last two years, he has been to Brazil, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Portugal, Russia and Japan and now India.
Indian fans are usually subject to a not-so-pleasant brand of commentary. So when the Indian Super League and Star Sports managed to rope in the Bradford City fan, it was easier on the ears. “Today’s generation of commentators believe in hyperbole. They keep talking for the entire duration of the game. When I started, we were asked to let the game flow. I try to embellish the picture in front of me. I research for a particular game for over five hours and try and jot down interesting details which I use on the air.”
Helm had earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for naming all 92 clubs in the English football league in 26 seconds. The 75-year-old has commentated on football in more than 65 countries. “I first came to India with my wife to celebrate our silver jubilee. Since then I have come quite a few times. I started commentating with Zee Sports and I covered the Kolkata Derby. The atmosphere that match generates is equal to the El Clasico.”
He has funny stories to share. “I once saw a monkey ransack the referee’s room at the Calcutta Port Trust ground. Also, in a Santosh Trophy encounter between Goa and Assam, the ball got stuck in a tree with the players waiting for it to come down!”He was in Chile for the 2015 U-17 World Cup and says that India has outdone themselves. “The attendance is amazing. Also, the media attend each and every press conference. Last time, I had to ask most of the questions!”From a football point of view, he is impressed with the current England U-17 squad. “This is truly a golden period for English youngsters. It’s time clubs started some of these kids, ” he said.