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Madrid City in English
Sunday 9th of December 2018
Vicky Knill 1208 31st of July 2012 by admin 31st of July 2012
Photo (CC) flickr: Mat_Jam
Man of the match

John Fortune is English but works as a football commentator on Spanish TV. meets him to find out how he managed to find his enviable career

For many football fans it would be a dream job: to appear on TV, amidst a panel of experts, getting paid to talk about the beautiful game. Madrid-based Liverpudlian John Fortune has not only managed to achieve that position, but has done so on a Spanish television channel. To chat about the routes and roots of his success, he arrives with a very English sense of punctuality at an Irish bar, and we quickly settle down to talk about football.
    A Liverpool fan born and bred, football has always been an important part of his life, and he’s proud that his father, Joe Fortune, played for Liverpool reserves. John began working as a special needs teacher in the UK, but he had a high level of Spanish, having previously taught English whilst living in Madrid, and he was offered a job in Spain translating information about English players for a football management game. The game became popular, and the opportunity meant he changed his UK work to supply teaching so that he could come to Madrid from September to December each year. He also took advantage of the chance to work for Spanish radio, talking about a day’s football events.

Be prepared
His big break came just prior to the Liverpool versus Real Madrid Champions League match in 2009, when a friend who worked for Canal+ asked him to help out by conducting an interview in Liverpool on the channel’s behalf. As a result, John was signed as a “co-commentator” with Canal+, offering his views and analysis of English league games. “I didn’t feel nervous about appearing on Spanish TV, I just felt prepared. Preparation is important,” he explains. “It’s not too bad if it’s Manchester United versus Liverpool, then you can sometimes wing it. But if it’s Scunthorpe United? Then, you’ve got to do some research. Afterwards I listened to the recording and I thought I sounded awful; just someone speaking Spanish with a Scouse accent! I don’t like listening to myself.”

You’ll never walk alone
John has greatly enjoyed the work, but one thing of which he is particularly proud is his involvement in a report on the Hillsborough disaster. This tragic event Photo (CC) flickr: LovelyLeftFoot happened 23 years ago, during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Too many people were forced into the stands, which were surrounded by high fences, and in the crush 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.
    Controversy still surrounds the incident, with the authorities arguing that the deaths were caused by football hooligans and others claiming they were caused by police negligence. It remains an emotive issue. “We spoke to families and also the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, who are behind the movement to get the papers relating to the case made public,” says John. “The Campaign managed to get 100,000 signatures on a petition, and when you have that number, you can force a debate in the House of Commons. And once it was on the agenda, no politician was going to say ‘Oh no, I’m not in favour of the documents being published’. It sailed through.”

Image versus reality
Despite some modern players having a bad reputation, John sees many in a different light. “Most footballers are working class lads who never forget where they’ve come from. Cristiano Ronaldo is extremely humble. He had a tough childhood and now takes his mum everywhere.” Other players who John claims are down-to-earth and friendly include former Spanish international Albert Ferrer, and ex-Real Madrid stars Raúl and Rafael Alkorta. “Fernando Torres is extremely shy,” he adds, “and there is one English player in the Premier League who donates a lot of money to charity on the condition that he’s kept anonymous.”
    Having spent a large amount of time analysing football styles, John has some interesting theories. “It’s strange, but it seems the Spanish play football in exactly the opposite way to how they go through life; they’re so patient and reserved on the pitch, it’s all about keeping the ball and biding your time. Completely unlike anything you see when they’re stuck in a traffic jam! With England too, we play in the opposite style of our general culture. We’re normally quite restrained, but on the pitch English football is so impatient!”

An eye to the future
In John’s opinion, what future talent should we be keeping our eyes on? “I think that Cristian Tello from Barca could be one to watch. Also Barca’s Jordi Alba. There’s lots of talent coming up all the time in Spain, but sadly I don’t think I can say the same for England. I don’t know why that should be, but it’s a shame.” Whatever happens next season, John hopes to keep the Spanish fans up to date, but he doesn’t see his fixture here as a permanent one. “I don’t want to be old in Madrid. I want to go back to Liverpool sooner rather than later. I miss Anfield too much!”

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