The voice that called Iniesta and Goetze’s World Cup goals, now graces ISL
There is no experience in world football that can match the thrill of a live match, watching your favourites go head-to-head for glory. But when a fan has to be contend with just watching his or her idol on the screen, the superstars are brought to life by the mesmerising words of a commentator.
English sports commentator John Helm is one such personality, who has seen it all in the ‘Beautiful Game’ — from Diego Maradona lifting the trophy while being carried around by mortals to his compatriot Lionel Messi squandering a chance few decades later and passing the buck to young Mario Goetze to chest and volley Germany to glory.
“My most favourite moment came during a match in Mexico in the 1986 World Cup when Denmark beat Uruguay 6-1. Michael Laudrup scored an absolutely amazing goal after going past six people and all I said was “The boy’s a genius”. That was picked by a lot of people in Denmark because they remembered what I had said at the World Cup,” Helm told Hindustan Times.
“It wasn’t the case that I was pleased by my own commentary but because I got it absolutely spot on. We are like players only and we can also commit mistakes and I have certainly committed a few. But when you get it right, the feeling could be equated to what Prithvi Shaw must have felt after scoring a century on debut.”
Helm is now lending his voice to the Indian Super League on Star Sports network and keeps a close eye on Indian football otherwise as well. He was part of the commentary panel for the Under-17 World Cup — the first ever tournament of such magnitude to be hosted by India. Although the ‘Blue Colts’ lost all three group games but Helm believes that changes can already be witnessed in the mindset of players.
“The U-17 World Cup was great, I was in Kolkata for it and I absolutely loved it. The young goal-keeper (Dheeraj Singh) made a massive impression and here he is in the ISL, where he kept a clean sheet on his debut (for Kerala Blasters in ISL 2018). I was also commentating during India’s narrow loss to South Korea in the U-16 AFC Championship. Mentally the players have toughened up ,” Helm said.
India is often regarded as a sleeping giant when it comes to football and Helm had a word of advice get it out of his slumber. The Under-17 World Cup acted as an alarm clock but it seems to have been snoozed off since. Helm feels that he has the perfect solution for India to do well on the global stage, where it still lags a few paces.
“The Indian players will immensely benefit from playing football abroad, against and with some high quality players. You need to find one Sunil Chhetri plying this trade in Germany on England or France or somewhere and he will really inspire the next generation. So for India to make more impact on world scene, I do believe that few players need to go abroad. We have to find a superstar,” The 75-year-old said.
“Sunil Chhetri is the closest that India have right now but you have to keep developing the young ones. One problem that I remember when the big names in football came to India was that the young players were nervous with the prospect of playing with them. But that mentality is improving now and they don’t think of themselves as inferior anymore. So if they keep on progressing like that, it will be a massive boost for Indian football.”
Helm praised the Indian Super League for bringing about a change in the quality of football in the country. Singling on two-time champions Chennaiyin FC, he said that they will once again be in contention for the title, come the business end of the season.
“In my opinion, Chennaiyin are the team to beat because they have won the title twice and have the necessary experience. They have retained more number of the players from last season in comparison to many other teams in the league. They also have got a good manager in John Gregory,” Helm said.
“But it is impossible to predict at this early stage (who are title favourites) but there are lot of good sides — Goa are a good team and so are Bengaluru. People can’t believe ATK have lost few times so early in the season but I feel that they will come good as Steve Coppell is a very good manager. But I have always enjoyed watching Chennai from the time when they had Stiven Mendoza and Elano. I think they play the game right and believe in playing good football,” he signed off.