The voice of football

The voice of football

MASERU – Football commentary is a revered part of the beautiful game, it is a genuine story-telling art of relating an action-packed story as it unfolds.
Radio commentary, in particular, is a skill that involves telling the listener exactly what is happening and getting them hooked to their radio stations.
As a radio commentator, you are the eyes, ears and heartbeat of your listeners and your job is to paint a clear and vivid picture that captures their imagination.

It is not an easy job; it takes talent, knowledge of the game, years of practicing and lots of preparation.
Personally, radio commentary shaped me as a child and lured me to football; it was the best thing after a goal.
Growing up in a family of mad football lovers, my uncle used to mute the television’s audio and listen to the radio instead.
He still does the same thing today and I have always been fascinated at how commentators do what they do.

As you can imagine, my excitement was through the roof when Lesotho’s top football commentator, Mpho Mosala, invited us to his offices at the Lesotho National Broadcasting Service (LNBS) this week to talk about his journey behind the microphone and broadcasting some of the biggest games in the country and abroad.
With Mosala what you see is what you get.
He is calm and collected and he smiled all through our interview as he picked the best moments from his glorious career.
One thing quickly became clear, Mosala takes pride in what he does and enjoys it thoroughly.

His voice has become unmistakable and everyone recognises him when he speaks on the radio.
Mosala does not have to introduce himself because he has been a constant voice on the national radio station on various programmes. He has a loyal listenership for his Sunday programme, Lentsoe le Pina for example. Mosala joined the public broadcaster in 2006, but did not do any sports related programming until 2012 when he began hosting sports shows and broadcasting live football matches.

Mosala says being knowledgeable in his field is important, it is a prerequisite, he says, to study the teams involved and know all about their history and players.
Because you are broadcasting to an audience that does not have the benefit of seeing the action, being specific about what is happening is imperative, he added.
“You are talking to people that are not there. You want to make them see and hear what is really happening in the field,” Mosala explains.
“It starts with preparation, you must know the teams. For example, is it a Premier League match? Is it an international match? Those are the things you have to bear in mind and give to the listeners,” he says.
Those finer details can make all the difference, he adds.

“Say Likuena is playing Zambia, (you must) make the listener understand if it’s a qualifying match and whether it’s AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations) or World Cup. Is it the first match of the qualifiers? If it’s the second, how did the first one go, how did they perform? What will happen if they lose or win this game? Are there still other games to be played? I think those are some of the things you have to give to your listeners,” Mosala explains.
His preparations start long before entering the commentary booth, he says. Commentators spend lot of their time researching the teams, coaches, players, fans and even the ground where the game will be played.
Mosala says one of the key aspects to doing the job well is being truthful with the listener. If you are truthful, listeners will be loyal to you and a bond will be built.

Do commentators get bored?
Yes, of course they do. It is only human nature, Mosala says.
However, he says a broadcaster must always rise above any staleness because the game itself is never boring.
And, regardless how you feel, you still have a job to do, Mosala adds.
When listening to Mosala talk, it is fair to wonder if broadcasters go to school or undergo training to learn about commentating, or whether it is a natural-born talent.
It is a bit of both, according to Mosala.

“It is talent in the sense that you don’t know you have it in you until you have tried it. Maybe you haven’t done it or even tried, then you get the opportunity and the talent shines through because we didn’t know,” Mosala says.
“Then you polish that talent maybe by going for training or learning from others. Sometimes it’s something you are learning, there are people who work hard regardless of the job they are doing. They do it with absolute perfection and commitment, even more than the person with talent,” he says.

Some players in world football have nicknames that were given to them by broadcasters and whether Bantu defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi knows it or not, he was nicknamed ‘Motsekuoa’ by Mosala.
The name came from a time when Mkhwanazi was at the centre of a tug of war between Bantu and Lioli in 2019 when both teams claimed to own him. Eventually, Bantu won the battle for his signature and Mkhwanazi had gained a name.

Another moment that stands out for Mosala in his near decade-long career in football commentary is his first match outside the country when Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) played Dynamos in Zimbabwe in 2013.
It was a CAF Champions League game and although Mosala had been commentating locally and was comfortable behind the mic, it was a challenge in Zimbabwe because he did not know the names of the Dynamos players or how to pronounce them.

“But, because you have prepared, you are not undermining other people that they don’t know the language you are speaking,” Mosala says.
“I met football people over there and I was asking how do you pronounce this name and that one, and that’s what helped me and I ended sounding like I know these names,” Mosala laughs.
“The nice thing was that when I was broadcasting, LCS was playing well. Even though they lost the game, they were playing well, and I was feeling good. People were listening to me but not understanding the language, they were looking and could see I was enjoying what I was doing and one of them came to me afterwards and was like, ‘how do you do it, did you know these guys before you came here?’

“I just told them it is preparation and just thanked him for thinking I did what I was expected to do. Even here at home I received positive feedback when I came back.”
When Mosala is broadcasting a football match it is difficult to tell which side he is on and that is because when he gets into the commentary box, he tries by all means not to show emotions or sympathy towards any team.

One thing he does admit, however, is that after having done the job for a long time, he can almost predict moments and what might happen based on player’s performance, body language or past history.
If a game is to be decided by a penalty shootout, for example, Mosala says he has an inkling of what will happen when a players steps up for a pressure penalty kick having seen their performance during the match. He says one can anticipate the pressure the player is under, and their body language, confidence and movement can almost predict if they will score or not.

Like all football fans, Mosala is looking forward to the return of football in the country.
Before parting ways with us he gave a message to all up and coming commentators and those who are aspiring to get into the field. Mosala’s main piece of advice: respect your listeners.
“Don’t undermine the listener because sometimes people that are listening to you are more knowledgeable than you,” he says.

“Prepare and that includes the history of the game. Keep the records, it is going to help you next time when you go to the next game. People want to know the history, what happened, these things will help you add value to what you are doing,” Mosala adds.
“Love what you do and believe in yourself as well. If you are not confident there is nothing that you say that people will have trust in, and bear in mind, the moment you go behind the mic and broadcast it doesn’t mean you are the best. You are still learning in each and every moment you do it, learn from others as well.”

Tlalane Phahla

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