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ESPN's Adrian Healey Confuses Slovakia with Slovenia

harkes healey ESPN's Adrian Healey Confuses Slovakia with Slovenia

Looking at the ESPN’s team of commentators for the 2010 World Cup TV coverage, we knew ahead of time that Adrian Healey and John Harkes were the weakest links in a team that features some of the best commentators in the world. Both men are qualified professionals. However, they’re not nearly as good as Martin Tyler, Derek Rae, Ian Darke and others. Unfortunately, Harkes and Healey showed two perfect examples of the improvements they need to make Sunday during the live coverage of the Slovakia versus Paraguay game.

Harkes and Healey both like to talk and they tend to talk so much that it can send the TV viewer into a daydream and detract from what is happening on the pitch itself. Such was the case for the 30-60 seconds leading up to the first goal of the game where both Healey and Harkes had a conversation on-air about how Paraguay qualified for the World Cup. Harkes added that “it’s not how you get there, but it’s what you do when you get there.” While the words were directed at Paraguay, they were true for Harkes, too. What he missed was Paraguay winning the ball in a dangerous area of the pitch and advancing in front of the penalty area and their clinical pass that fell into Enrique Vera’s path, which he hit with the outside of his foot into the corner of the net.

Harkes finished up his sentence just as the ball was going into the goal. What he should have done was to stop his train of thought. Or, better yet, Healey should have broken into the commentary to stop Harkes from rambling and focus him on what was developing on the pitch.

To make matters worse, a couple of minutes later, Adrian Healey wished everyone a happy father’s day but then put his foot in his mouth when he said that it was Slovenia playing Paraguay.

Both Healey and Harkes need to concentrate on their games work. They also need to limit the amount of statistics that they throw out because it takes the viewer away from the game and into la-la land where it’s hard to focus on what’s happening on the pitch when the topic of conversation has nothing to do with what’s happening right now.

ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup has been exemplary since it has started. But it’s important that the integrity of the commentating and analysis remains top notch. Both Healey and Harkes can do better, but they just need to concentrate at the game at hand and let the match do the talking.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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53 Responses to ESPN's Adrian Healey Confuses Slovakia with Slovenia

  1. dlink09 says:

    really gaffer, you had the time to write this shit. but not even a single article about USA vs Slovenia ref’s blunder..

  2. Chris says:

    good article, i am glad these two have called a lot of the early games because at 4:30 am i need to keep the volume down anyways.

  3. bayou says:

    What can be said about the US/Slovenia call that hasn’t already been said? Until FIFA pussyfoots around the issue tomorrow in a press release, there’s not much to dissect or discuss. The call is mystifying, the ref won’t address why he made the call, and in the end the US will still draw. They aren’t going to give the US a retroactive goal and a victory. The most FIFA will do is not allow this guy to be head ref for another World Cup game. FIFA, as a governing body, is about as effective as the NCAA.

  4. Martinj says:

    At least “the old onion bag” commentator has-been has been relegated to ESPN Radio.

  5. brn442 says:

    I’ve confused Slovenia and Slovakia myself Gaffer. Sure I’m not a paid professional like Mr. Healey but it’s not the worst mistake a commentator can make in my opinion.

    As for Mr. Harkes, unlike Lalas and his Serie A publicity stunt, I will always respect the man for breaking into the top flight of English football in an era when it was a pipe dream for any American to do so. However, he is shockingly biased when he calls USA matches, he simply makes up calls against the opposition or ignores obvious US transgressions.

  6. chicuse says:

    Ian Darke and Ally McCoist botched the New Zealand goal, claiming it was Reid. Where’s the outrage?

  7. RVPFan says:

    Apart from ESPN showing US botched goal again and again and again and again and again and again, and analysts constantly saying there is nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing wrong with that goal, what is ESPN trying to prove here? All the analysts have pretty much said its an umpiring error. We all know, whole US knows, whole world knows, by saying it hundred thousand times, its rather annoying and starting to get on viewer’s nerves.

    Also, Alexi Lalas, is it just me that I can’t stand to listen to him analyze anymore.

    Apart from those two, coverage has been phenomenal.

    • Evan says:

      it’s an American broadcast. Americans like controversy. Get over it and also stop whining about Lalas. Can’t stand people like you. I don’t particularly like Lalas either but he is a person who seems friendly and he’s American. Which draws more viewers.

      • BobbyB says:

        He draws more viewers? Please cite evidence that Americans would not be watching the World Cup in the same numbers they are now if a non-American was in his place?

        Put the best commentators that ESPN can find in the both. If all of them are non-American, so be it. All of us Americans will survive just fine.

        • Evan says:

          Many Americans feel that soccer is some sort of foreign sport and having an American like Lalas provides some familiarity with the sport. I’m not going to cite any evidence for you. It’s like the refs in the world cup. They don’t choose all the best ones, they choose them from different countries to provide variety in the countries represented by the referees. It’s sort of the same thing. Many Americans wouldn’t want an all English or an all Spanish broadcast team. So there’s Lalas for those people, and for people like you there’s Martinez and many other proficient characters on the ESPN broadcast team.

  8. SanDimas1988 says:

    I’ll take the Slovenia vs Slovakia blunder, because the one of commentators made the best reference ever during the Japan match. Anyone a fan of Fawlty Towers? I forget who the commentators were, but they said the Japan coach doesn’t want anyone to mention the semi-finals. The commentator then said “I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.” I was laughing so hard, but if you’re not a Fawlty Towers fan you have no idea what I’m talking about.

  9. robert says:

    I’ve caught the Brits on ESPN making mistakes just as minute as those. They’re doing pretty well I’d say.

    I’m with RVP though. Tough to listen to Lalas. He has some good things to say, but the manner of his delivery is grating. Ridiculously pompous; like he’s the only keeper of “the Truth.”

  10. SSReporters says:

    Harkes is just awful. Why can’t he pronounce Slovenia properly?

    I’m pleased with ESPN’s coverage except for their studio shows, where Steve McManaman, Alexi Lalas, and Ruud Gullit should be banned from TV.

  11. young cluff says:

    hahaha good ol’ americans, gotta love em. They must be the only people in the world who are at a world cup, hosted by fifa which stands for federation of internation FOOTBALL associations, yet call it something different. Its not suprising that they get two countries that sound and look the same mixed up. This doesnt surprise me as i heard the other day that only 27% of americans actually have passports….the word IGNORANCE springs to mind. But this is in no way a slur against you yanks, ive been to america and i love the place and i love the american “soccer” team as it the minority sport (for some reason)

    • SanDimas1988 says:

      We Americans think of soccer as a minority sport because it’s boring. There’s no scoring. Why would we watch a sport where one goal really matters, when we can watch 90 baskets in a basketball game?

      Basketball is so boring, I don’t know how anyone can possibly watch it. I’ll take that New Zealand vs Italy match.

    • Pakapala says:

      Nope the US are not the only one at the world cup calling Association Football by a different name. Australians call it soccer because like the US they have a more popular Football rule down there, known internationally as Australian Football. Let’s not forget Italians call the game Calcio. They must be ignorants right?

      • This One Guy in Detroit says:

        And South Africa calls it soccer too. I haven’t heard anybody mocking Nelson Mandela for it.

        Honest to God, there is nothing more cliched, boring and tiresome than 12-year-olds who get on the Internet for the first time, discover that the United States uses a different name for football, and post their thoughts about this revelation on a message board somewhere.

        The problem is that there’s always a new batch of 12-year-olds, and so it never stops.

        • ovalball says:

          May it RIP. The most boring/lame comment on epltalk. It’s a cultural difference, which is completely understandable by all but the densest. Let it go, fools.

          TOGID…..I am agreeing with you too much. Something’s wrong! ;-)

    • BBC says:

      Ahhh. . . .Irony

  12. jspec says:

    Harkes is worst on MLS games. U have to admit that when paired with Tyler, he’s a bit better. Rae & Healy I can’t stand their voices. Can’t understand Healy most of the time. Darke is really good, he sounds like he’s really enjoying the job. He’s funny motherf’er

  13. jspec says:

    SanDimas u don’t enjoy life much do you. I mean taking time to write about boring stuff. Soccer would never be NFL, NBA or MLB and that’s okay. But a MLS drawing close 18000 per game. NHL, NBA wishes for that. Soccer has it place, & will continue to grow. You in America Bro, there are a million things to do!! Stop with the tired stereotyping. It’s is not Arena Football!

  14. Pakapala says:

    Wow! Talk about having your blinders on? Where are the articles you have written and posted on the website after gaffs made by Tyler or McCoist, Ekofu or Darke? When Tyler miss a call by the referee or when the above mentioned miss key actions because they go out of their way to tell us that player X used to play for team Y in England, where are the articles.

  15. cmasia says:

    Whereas the match coverage has been terrific overall, with the exception of Harkes, I’ve become really disappointed with how ESPN is handling the studio stuff.
    Granted they have to inundate us with commercials. I understand that.
    The problem is having a host, plus 1, 2, or 3 analysts, cover 8 or 9 topics in 15 minutes of studio time.
    Highlights cannot be analysed as they only show them once and cut quickly to the next. You will see a goal, but not how it was made.
    Worse, all the commentators know they have 15 seconds at best to make a solid analysis of what we’ve seen, or what is upcoming.
    It is impossible and makes them all look out of place.
    We’ve been treated to the best coverage ever. It’s a shame McManaman, Gullit, Martinez, Klinsman, Bartlett, and the ever pompous Lalas have such limited roles.

    And as an aside, shame on ESPN for not allowing Fox access to match footage for the “Ticket to South Africa” show.

    • Panda says:

      That’s a shame since Healey was the best announcer with Andy Gray during Euro 2008.

    • Pakapala says:

      <<>>

      Huh? ESPN did not prevent Fox to have access to the match footage. Cheapass Fox just didn’t want to acquire those highlights for their show. All they had to do was buy the rights to show the highlights but apparently they think they can do the show without it.

  16. Peter says:

    I think calling Healey out for confusing Slovakia for Slovenia is awfully petty. All of the commentators have made similar mistakes, but it does not impact my viewing of the match. Healey, while not at the level of Tyler, Darke, or Rae just yet, has done a fine job in my opinion.

    • This One Guy in Detroit says:

      I agree, Peter. I have to say, Gaffer, this was kind of an odd post. I’ve generally appreciated you and EPL Talk for your thoughtful perspective (and occasional scoops!) on broadcasting topics. You typically “get it.” But this post just seems like a longer version of one of those emoticon-infested, drive-by comments we’d see at Big Soccer or wherever.

      I think the ESPN crew has been doing a top-shelf job overall, Harkes included. If there are any real weak points, they’ve been Gullit and Klinsmann, though both have improved quite a bit since the opening days. But I think the Americans have been terrific, with Mike Tirico and Chris Fowler doing absolutely stellar anchor work and Alexi Lalas turning out to be a really strong pundit personality.

      Speaking as someone who has been following soccer in America for nearly four decades, hoping I’d live to see the day that the sport really made it, these past 10 days have been like a dream. Just magnificent.

  17. Lyle says:

    Who cares? They’re human, Jesus. Let’s write an article on the Anglo-centric bias of EPL Talk. Where are all the articles on the men’s national team?

  18. Carolyn says:

    Whenever John Harkes is announcing I immediately hit the mute button and listen to some music while enjoying the beautiful game. I know that ESPN thinks it has to have at least one US announcer or else Americans won’t watch. I don’t agree. I’ve watched many golf tournaments that had British announcers and to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t hurt golf viewership.

    ESPN should just use Martinez and Klinsman (I’ve been surprised by how good he can be) as the studio analysts.

  19. Stewy says:

    Gaffer I think the article is a good one, keep up the great work! US readers are only going to like you if you put down everyone and say US is # 1. As for me I think Harkes and Lalas are the worst of the ESPN commentators. They are so biased when it comes to the US team. Listening to them you would believe that the US is a major football power when if the truth is told they are just a minnow. Lalas in particular I find most annoying. He tries to speak disparagingly of the English team, the Italian team, Bendtner, Eto and what I thought was the last straw was when he attempted to compare Fabiano to Donovan. Someone needs to tell him of this rule in football NO ONE on the US team has earned the right to be compared to anyone on the Brazilian team. Its like comparing a Chevy to a Benz, its just not done!

    That being said though I think this coverage of the World Cup is the best we have ever had here in the USA. I guess this is just something we will have to put up with as most Americans probably wouldn’t watch if these US cheerleaders weren’t on-board.

    • Gary Talarino says:

      Co-sign on this, I agree 100% with your take on the ESPN coverage. Was anyone else sickened by how much joy Lalas is showing over what’s happening with the French team?

      • Matt says:

        Absolutely agree as well. Lalas is the most biased analyst I have ever seen. He has been riding the gravy train from his 94 appearance far too long. Can ESPN wake up and get rid of him already?

        Why Roberto Martinez is not present for at least one match each day is something I will never understand.

    • Pakapala says:

      Wow! The horror of a US commentator being biased toward their national team; while I agree with that being the case for Harkes and Lalas, I would however ask if you have not been listening to UK commentators calling CL games that involve EPL teams? Many of them are completely and unapologetically biased in their commentaries. Surely no one complain about them but let a US commentator be biased and ll hell break loose!

  20. Pablo says:

    Barry Glendenning in the minutebyminute of Spain vs Honduras. Always funny:
    Colin Greer is here with a public service announcement: “On ESPN radio some American chap and Tommy Smyth (angrily waving his knobbly stick) are providing match commentary,” he writes. “If anyone is considering suicide and needs that extra little push, give them a listen.”
    Link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/21/world-cup-2010-spain-honduras-live

  21. Alligator22 says:

    Harkes is horrendous. My sister described him today as the the Sarah Palin of sports. Talks a bunch without actually saying anything. It also seems that he just can’t give up on a sentence. He has to keep adding things to it. Did anybody else hear him say something about it not being too late for N. Korea to come back against Portugal even though they were losing 4-0 with 20 minutes to go? He’s completely incompetent. I enjoy all the other commentators but I’ve had to sacrifice their insight but muting Harkes.

    • IntelAlly says:

      Totally Agree. And that foul by Dempsey with his high elbow right at the start of the US-Slovenia match – which he got away with without a yellow card. Harkes kept downplaying the foul, saying it was totally routine, players cant help bringing the elbows up. How can you make stupid comments in such a confident self-assured way?

      And I heard that N Korea 4-0 comment – his co-commentator sounded stunned too, didnt say anything. It was like – what nonsense – what can you possibly mean?

    • Pakapala says:

      Oooh! You’re such a hardcore soccer fan because you only can appreciate brittish commentary and can’t stand american commentators. Oooh english fans will welcome you as a real soccer fan if you act like that.

      It’s funny how y’all say you mute the TV when Harkes start talking yet, somehow y’all hear what he’s saying and can report it word for word.

  22. IntelAlly says:

    Lalas is getting more and more intolerable – he makes me cringe. Its embarassing – to think ESPN couldnt come up with a better analyst. Biased views, school boy petulant bravado, sneers at other hugely more competent teams, no sense of humor. Urrrggghh. He acts like he really knows what he is talking about – & to think, some of the US public actually relate to him. He is a total dim-wit sitting next to Martinez, Mcmanaman and Klinsmann.

    And Harkes is only slightly better.

    To think, we ll have to hear them both tomorrow!

  23. redenek says:

    “eally gaffer, you had the time to write this shit. but not even a single article about USA vs Slovenia ref’s blunder”

    Looks like Slovenia made it through after all.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89pGAAZ4P6A

  24. Brett says:

    I actually really like both of them.. Dont be like deadspin where you try to go negative to generate interest

  25. redenek says:

    Actually, I’m from Slovenia and I’m just laughing at my own expense. What, you thought I was a redneck? You Americans should be more carefull about the details, have more respect towards small nations for in many cases it doesn’t matter the number of people who live in one coutry. It’s the location, it’s how you deal with your own weakneses, stereotypes… etc. to get the most from your team that you can.

    Now, take a look how Slovenia : Ukraine /2milion Vs 46milion/ scored and later went to Euro2000 to meet Jugoslavia, Spain and Norway. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXQVRc-ewYg

  26. Mia says:

    I can’t really complain. Harkes is not good and the studio commentary is bad. But as a huge baseball fan, I have to put up with Tim McCarver. No one working for ESPN has been McCarver bad. I have experienced the worst, so mediocrity doesn’t seem so bad. :)

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