Get to know two Telemundo sports journalists and what it’s like covering the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Gabriel Sotelo and Raúl Striker Jr are television sports broadcasters currently working at Telemundo 48 KSTS in the Bay Area. Their experiences in sports journalism have led both of them towards covering a wide range of sports over the course of their careers, commenting on both the innerworkings of the various leagues and games as well as the stories surrounding the sports.
For the Russia 2018 World Cup, both Sotelo and Striker are taking the reigns as evening and weekend broadcasters for the games, bringing to life the players, storylines and passion that augments the appeal of soccer worldwide.
As fans of soccer, or fútbol as they call it, it is an immeasurable opportunity to delve into the world of a sport they are both fond and as passionate about as the fans they cater to.
In the following interview both Sotelo and Striker give us the rundown of what it’s like bringing news and entertainment from the sports world into the medium of television and now the internet, along with their predictions for the final cup contenders in July.
Thank you both for giving some of your time to speak on what is it that you are doing with the World Cup. For my first question, can you give a brief rundown of what trajectory led you to your work in sports broadcasting?
Raul: I come from a family of sportscasters. My dad was a longtime sportscaster so from an early age instead of going to summer school and summer camps I would go with him to work and learn to edit and to make things better for me he was a “sports guy”. I had the opportunity to go to games from an early age and I fell in love with the competition, with this industry, with providing people with entertainment/information in an entertaining way.
And so that’s how I started in sports and [I] worked for about 15 years in Miami at Telemundo and Univision. I did Marlins, Dolphins, a little bit of Heat. I’ve always been around sports and never really had the opportunity to cover a soccer team directly because we only had MLS there for a short time, but when it comes to World Cups and big events, I’ve always been there to follow and cover soccer. I’m just very excited for this opportunity and to work with Gabriel.
Gabriel: in 2009 Univision and Verizon had a contest to send somebody to the world cup. I entered that contest, I won, I went to South Africa for a month. That actually started my sports journalism career. I worked in TV previously but not in sports particularly, so what a way to start, covering Mexico and their opening game against South Africa. I got to cover 16 matches while I was there and when I flew back home, at the time it was Tijuana, I decided with my wife to immigrate to San Diego and leave everything behind. My wife and I started up my immigration process and then 11 months later I got the nod from Univision San Diego. I did the morning show, and I was a reporter for the Chargers and their Spanish show, “En Contacto Con Los Chargers”. I always covered soccer, it’s been a passion of mine.
Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on my mom’s side. So, Friday nights it was boxing night, and then Saturday and Sunday, what wasn’t cartoons was soccer, so I didn’t have an option. So I grew up and just fell in love with the game, and the game has loved me back. It’s been 8 years of having a career where I’ve been blessed, covered several events, some with great results and some with bad. It’s part of life, it’s part of sports. I’m pumped, I’m very excited to be part of my third World Cup coverage and you know it’s exciting to be part of Telemundo history as well. This is our first World Cup and every cup has been special, I know for a fact that this one will be as well.
What is the preparation like for covering the World Cup? What kind of research goes into it?
Gabriel: Everybody thinks that fútbol is a thing [where] you gotta sit down and read every single book and every time interns come and ask me I tell them, “you’ve got to live it.” There’s no better way to learn a sport, learn a tradition in anything than just living it, so you know that preparation has been over the years, it’s not just these last few months. You’ve lived the history, you’ve seen the games, you’ve gone through them.
Literally it’s a preparation that has been going on for the last four years and it’s gonna culminate in starting the World Cup and all the information stored there somewhere in your brain, starting to pour out and you can share those fun facts and those little stories and side concepts that you have that start pouring out once the World Cup starts and the games start rolling.
Raul: I think Gabriel couldn’t have said it any better. That’s one thing that I’ve always been into when it comes to sports, you can read all you want, study, prepare yourself that way and some of that is involved in what we do. On a local level we’re providing highlights, commentary etc. we have to stay up to date as far as injuries, things that pop up but a lot of it basically boils down to the actual experience.
Gabriel: Yeah, and it’s an everyday thing. It’s not like a test where you sit down and study for a few days and hope you remember everything. It’s really every day, checking the feeds, having your basic contacts and talking to people in the Bay Area, and having a good source that can tell you reliable info.
Raul: People sometimes don’t realize that [with] TV we make it look pretty easy thanks to all the teamwork we have behind the scenes. Just to produce a three-minute segment takes a lot of hours of work. There’s a lot of research to be done, graphics need to be filled, things of that sort, so it’s a big production that encompasses all aspects: planning, marketing, audio production, video, everything.
What can people expect in the ongoing Telemundo coverage going on for the World Cup?
Gabriel: In the mornings they will be able to see everything that network cast prepared for them, “Accesso Rusia”, “Hoy en Rusia”, that’s all divided into games, culture, reactions, color so they’re pretty much taking all over the morning. In the afternoon Raul and myself will have recaps, game reactions and press conferences. From midday news at 5pm, 5:30pm and 11pm Monday through Friday. Sunday we do a special recap show of everything World Cup, that’s “Accesso Rusia”.
Raul: For me the one distinct difference I’ve always noticed from watching fútbol, with all due respect to our American brothers, the passion, the intensity of a Spanish broadcast doesn’t compare to anything else. I’ve watched a soccer game and after a while I have to switch, even if the game is on the competition. I have to switch because it’s just a different level of passion that we bring to our sports that is unparalleled.
Gabriel: The good thing about our fans, and I wish this would’ve existed earlier, they’re going to be able to take the World Cup on their phone. You don’t have to worry about taking the kids to day camp or the zoo, wherever you are the World Cup will be and people are going to be able to tune in on the Telemundo 48 app and Telemundo Deportes app and it’s awesome. No matter where they’re at they’re going to have the action, in full color.
Is there anything that you two are excited about personally, whether it be certain games or opportunities that will arise with this World Cup?
Gabriel: It’s just the opportunity to share your passion. For me fútbol has always been close to my heart, for what it represents, what my grandparents bestowed on me, the passion that’s bigger than yourself, the passion that you can’t control for a game that’s halfway around the world and you root for them regardless of whether you lose or draw. That for me is the biggest thing, just being able to share everything that’s happening and being part of the official World Cup station is just awesome because we have all these resources available to actually create something to share with people and of course you always want to see a dark horse, you always want to see who’s going to come up and who’s that surprise team that absolutely no one is talking about that might come up.
Four years ago everybody said that Costa Rica was done for, that they shouldn’t even go to Brazil. I mean, look at what they did. They came out on top of that group with three World Champions and made it all the way to the quarter finals. It’s just very exciting to see what surprises Russia 2018 has for us.
Raul: Every day is a great day because you are alive, and it’s another World Cup. It’s another one that we get to enjoy, we only get to see them every four years so it’s like, you don’t want to miss a minute of the action. Aside from that, I think we’re in a very interesting part of soccer’s history. You have Messi who’s considered the best, and most of his countrymen don’t consider him the best Argentinian ever. You have the whole thing with [Coach] Juan Carlos Osorio, he hasn’t really won the [Mexican] fan base yet. If Mexico does very well in the World Cup I think that that will start to change. Like Gabriel said, that surprise team, that Cinderella story that every sports fans love, everybody loves to see the winners and the best players on the field but at the same time every once in a while, it lets you know that human condition of, “if you work hard enough you’ll get what you want.”
Thanks for your time Gabriel and Raúl. My final question to you is, who are your favorites to win this cup?
Gabriel: Well they do say that soccer is a sport played 11 to 11, and Germany always wins. I think that people might think that I’m going with the safe pick here, but for me it’s Brazil and Germany. Both have brilliant elimination rounds, they just destroy the competition, especially brazil considering that it’s one of the toughest places to qualify for the World Cup. I’m going with those two, I think Brazil and Germany will be the heavy hitters. Although we’ve seen it in World Cups past, the world champion kind of stumble out of the gate. We saw it with Spain in Brazil 2014, and I saw it personally with Italy in 2010 so we’ll see.
Raul: I mean for me it’s always fun. For me Brazil is a team that hasn’t been mentioned much because you forget about them, they’re so good. [But] they didn’t do too well against Germany when they were hosting the cup. I think Neymar showed he’s ready. He’s 26 so it’s an exciting team, a lot of talent in Brazil. From a fan’s perspective one of my favorite players is Messi so I’d like to see him do well. He gets criticized harshly in his country for not being there. For moving over to Barcelona, and also kind of like the whole LeBron thing, and not winning a championship [at home]. I’d love to see how people would react if he went ahead and was able to win a World Cup.
Follow Gabriel on Twitter (@GSoteloT48) and Facebook (facebook.com/GabrielAndresSotelo) and Raúl on Twitter (@raulstrikerjr) and Facebook (facebook.com/raul.strikerjr).