Struggle, hope and change - Finalists in Writing categories reveal untold corners of the sporting world
BUDAPEST, January 30, 2020 - What is sport without emotion? And what is sport without words?
A bunch of statistics, combining victory and defeat, without any feelings. More and more frequently, robots using artificial intelligence are being assigned to writing news wires and dispatches. They might tell us who has won, or lost, but they will never make us laugh or cry, as it happens with a good colour piece or a moving column.
Sport is not just about results. Sport is about culture. And culture is made from stories.
Identifying and bringing these stories to light is not for everyone. It is a complex, delicate craft. For some, it is a trade. For others, it is an art.
In any case, emotions and words have a strong, indestructible bond. Through words, the public feels closer to the athletes, almost as if they were part of their family. Through words and description, a writer can create empathy, indulgence or criticism. Through words, a writer can make the reader think and understand. Through words, a writer can influence and also produce a change.
The finalists of the Writing categories of the second edition of the AIPS Sport Media Awards, have fully used that power to persuade, convince and inspire, from different parts of the world and to a different public.
Best Column awardees
In Best Column, Carlos Matallanas (Spain), Prajwal Oli (Nepal) and Sebastián Torok (Argentina) have chosen different roads to connect story and reader.
In Letter to Rafael Nadal (Diario As, Spain), Matallanas writes to the tennis star, who has just won Roland Garros, and tells him why he admires him so much. It is a tale of surmounting and overcoming difficulties, which connects with his personal story: Matallanas has been diagnosed with ALS. “I won’t be original. I won’t spare lines for describing what everybody knew. I would like to take this privileged window to tell you of how do I see yourself from my situation,” he writes. The letters develops how Nadal became part of the Spanish culture and how he draws people to fight beyond logic.
To describe the situation of sport in Nepal, Prajwal Oli (The Kathmandu Post, Nepal) chooses an intriguing intro: “Curling is a winter sport, one where players in teams of four each take turns sliding heavy granite ‘rocks’ on a sheet of ice towards a target of four concentric circles. Not many in Nepal will have even heard of this sport and yet the country has had a Nepal Curling Association for the past nine years. But no one really knows what the association does, not even its president”. It is part of his story titled “Nepal barely plays 50 sports, but has nearly 200 sports associations”. The misuse of sport could have never been so evident, and Oli’s point is convincingly proved with plenty of quotes from officials.
When tennis writer Sebastián Torok (La Nación, Argentina) found out about Marco Trungelliti’s case, he decided to go deeper. Rather than just reporting about suspensions over match-fixing, Torok convinced Trungelliti to tell his story, in what became a world’s scoop. While reading it, it is impossible not to feel the pressure that lower-ranked tennis players might experience when they receive a facebook message over a supposed sponsorship deal. “The notebooks of tennis, the Argentine that challenged the mafia that fixes matches”. “The same Argentinian tennis of 220 ATP trophies and a Davis Cup is sprinkled by an infection that is difficult to eradicate, that is not new but sustains its bacteria: the business of match fixing and bettings, with the complexity of mafia and main actors: players, coaches and officials.
Three very different topics and writing styles, but with the same powerful result: articles that offer a considered and knowledgeable opinion, demonstrate relevance, authority, understanding of and insight into the issue and show a flair for language.
Best Colour Piece awardees
The Best Colour Piece is the category that highlights stories that demonstrate innovation, thinking, research and are well written with passion and flair, best capturing the emotion of an occasion in and around the sporting world.
Zahra Aliee (90tv, Iran) was one of the few women that were allowed to the Asian Champions League final game at Azadi stadium. Many have written on the matter, in what was unanimously depicted as a historical day, but Aliee, a female reporter, was there, and her narration of the events -full of complications before and after the match- shows the real side of the story: “The entrance to the women’s platform opens and about 200 women supporters head to the lower seats with enthusiasm. Fans are applauding them and standing up in respect for the women’s presence. Camera men and photographers are trying not to miss even one shot of this historic day. The feeling is strange; men and women have come together to support an Iranian team. This isn’t something we’ve ever seen before,” she writes.
Jeremy Wilson (The Daily Telegraph, UK), wrote a special report that shows the dark side of rugby: “France rocked by the tragic cost of rugby's safety crisis”. The story focuses on the number of young players that have died, four in France alone over an eight month period. Wilson writes: “Seven months have now passed since Louis Fajfrowski died in a room just down the corridor from where we speak and, while just thinking about his friend prompts both tears at his sudden passing and laughter at their shared memories, Fucina wants also to convey a wider message. ‘I don’t know where rugby is going,’ he says”. In his story, a French doctor describe rugby injuries more similar to traffic accidents than to sport injuries.
Suzanne Wrack (The Guardian, UK), published the exclusive on alleged violent abuses suffered by members of the Afghanistan national women’s team by the president of the Afghanistan Football Federation. Her story “‘There was blood everywhere’: the abuse case against the Afghan FA president” ran the accounts of three victims of Keramuudin Karim. This article detailed the horrific verbal, physical and sexual abuses suffered by vulnerable women. One of the players says: “He told me to sit on the bed. I was worried, I was shaking. He said: ‘Today I want to find out what is behind your clothes.’ I was telling him: ‘Leave me alone, I want to go home.’ I stood up and I said I wanted to go home and he said to me: ‘Scream as much as you want, there won’t be anyone hearing you, they can’t hear you.’”
On February 3, the three finalists of Best Column, and the three finalists of Best Colour Piece will experience one of the most special nights of their careers. For one night, they will have to leave aside the idea that the story is always more important than the journalist. The AIPS gala in Budapest will be for them and about them.
Make no mistake, selecting them was not easy: the quality of the Top 30 was extremely high, raising the bar for the next generations. This is the core value of the AIPS Sport Media Award, sport media excellence at its best.
We encourage you to read them all, because even with the robot of automated translation, with some of the real power of the original language lost, they retain the quality of creating emotions.
Links to stories
Best Column (in alphabetical order)
Matallanas, Carlos (Spain)
Letter to Rafael Nadal
Oli, Prajwal (Nepal)
Nepal barely plays 50 different sports, but hosts nearly 200 sports associations
Torok, Sebastián (Argentina)
The notebooks of tennis: the Argentine that challenged the mafia that fixes matches
Best Colour Piece
Aliee Zahra (Iran)
A story of the women's historical day in the forbidden place, Azadi
Wilson, Jeremy (UK)
Special Report: France rocked by the tragic cost of rugby's safety crisis
Wrack, Suzanne (UK)
‘There was blood everywhere’: the abuse case against the Afghan FA president