Efan Ekoku Commits Commentary Flub in Spain Game on ESPN

When Martin Tyler and co-commentator Efan Ekoku did their preparation work for the 2010 World Cup, one thing they definitely didn’t study was the national anthem of Spain. Not that we expect them to, but when Efan Ekoku was sharing his analysis during Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final between Germany and Spain, he committed a minor flub.

In the 24th minute of the game, Ekoku shared the interesting observation that none of the Spanish players sung the national anthem during the quarter-final match against Paraguay. Except, for the fact that the Spanish national anthem is one of the few in the world that has no lyrics!

Even though “La marcha real” (“The Royal March”) has no lyrics, words have been written for it in the past, but the national anthem has been played without lyrics since 1978 when the lyrics that had been approved by General Franco were abandoned.

Here the transcript of the commentary by Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku, which shows that Tyler didn’t realize the national anthem contained no words either.

Martin Tyler (MT): “There is one other aspect, and this group [of Spanish players] certainly dispelled it, they have had divisions in the camp… Spain teams in the past through the political divisions in the country. Still there in the football rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But at least there, between the players, they’ve realized they’ve got to get on it together.”

Efan Ekoku (EE): “Certainly not on the surface, but an interesting note I sort of recognized the other day, in the quarter-finals I think it was, was that none of the players sung the national anthem.”

MT: “But they wouldn’t be alone in that, because they might have more reason…”

EE: “…not to, yeah…”

MT: “That’s a good point, Efan. Well made.”

In fairness to Ekoku and Tyler, it’s impossible to know everything about the 32 participating teams in the country. Ekoku made a mistake and presumed that the Spaniards neglected to sing the national anthem for other reasons other than the fact that the song has no words. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s still an embarrassing flub especially if you’re a Spain supporter.

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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33 Responses to Efan Ekoku Commits Commentary Flub in Spain Game on ESPN

  1. It’s a mistake, yes, but I’d hardly classify it as “major.” Slow news day?

  2. David the Yank says:

    ESPN has done a terrific job, but Ekoku is simply horrendous. In all aspects. Doesn’t know the laws. Adds nothing to a match.

    Join the bandwagon: Kasey Keller & Roberto Martinez to replace Harkes & Ekoku for 2014!

  3. LFC says:

    With the noise at this WC, I know a few times I could not tell if there was words in some of the anthems.

    If there is someone to criticize it is the S. Africans who should have some respect and not blow plastic trumpets during another countries national anthem.

    • Peter says:

      Why don’t you show us respect by not coming on here & spouting, stupid garbage like that.

      • Zuma says:

        What do you expect from a country where rape is a national past time. With their little retarded smiles blowing away on their venezuela’s while paying no attention to the football game going on.

        • Robert says:

          So apparently we were looking for racism at the World Cup in all the wrong places. Don’t check Afrikaaner enclaves, just visit the EPLTalk comment section.

  4. Brn442 says:

    That’s why I listen to Ekoku for his football analysis not his geographical/social prowess.

  5. jk says:

    Gaffer,
    Another poster mentioned this earlier on the ESPN thread. I commented saying how this was a much bigger gaffe then the Derek Rae gaffe you brought up before. I have to say with this post at least you are now being fair and balanced. I wonder if it is a bit reactionary, but I will give you the benifit of the doubt and call it genuine.

  6. jk says:

    Also, I agree they can’t know everything about the 32 world cup teams and they are broadcasting far more games then they are used to but if you are going to attack someone’s nationalism (which in a way he was doing) then you do need to know those facts.

  7. marcus says:

    The fact that the Spanish anthem has no lyrics is one of the most well-known features of Spanish football among football pundits all over Europe. I wouldn’t expect an American pundit to know it since they rarely cover int’l football, but Ekoku works for British TV all the time. He has no excuse. It’s just a very widely known fact among football professionals (pundits, journos, etc.)

  8. Pat says:

    This is the same announcer who was clueless to the offsides rule in the first game and says he saw a clear foul on the USA Edu disallowed goal against Slovenia. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d rather have Harkes, but he doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

  9. Dan says:

    1. He didn’t know the offside rules in the RSA-MEX game and wrongly criticized the officials for their decision, and never corrected himself

    2. A day or two after the USA-SLO game, he said he thought the Mali ref made the right call and said that he saw US players committing fouls. He too failed to specify which US player(s) were guilty.

    3. Doesn’t know the Spanish national anthem has no words.

    3 Strikes, EE should be OUT!

  10. sucka99 says:

    I like those two but even I knew that as long as 2 years ago when I was watching Euro 2008 … on ESPN. Tyler and Darke are good quality but for the life of me I can’t figure out why Derek Rae isn’t given more love. That guy’s been the best ESPN PxP guy for a decade. And a total professional. Tyler has the pedigree, Darke is the cheerleader/homer-for-hire, and Healey is steady, but Rae has the best of all of them. ESPN seems to think “If it IS scottish it’s crap.”

  11. SSReporters says:

    Efan Ekoku is more negative in his thinking than the Greek football team./

  12. Kal says:

    Please tell me Harkes isn’t commentating on the next two games…thanks to him my spanish is improving.

  13. man99utd says:

    I think the bigger issue is why was it mentioned at all. Does he actually know what they’re thinking? Rooney didn’t sing the anthem before one match and it does have words. Nothing mentioned. This is all about someone liking the sound of their own voice.

  14. tonyspeed says:

    yes, no more harkes. i can’t take it anymore.

  15. UpTheBlues says:

    I think this “flub” is being blown out of proportion. I made the same mistake and have listened to many others make the same comment.

    Now Harkes on the other hand…. ;)

  16. Gary Talarino says:

    This mistake is meaningless for me. Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku have been my favorite duo this entire World Cup. I disagree strongly with some of the other people leaving comments – I think Ekoku adds a lot when he calls a match. Tyler / Ekoku or Jon Champion / Ekoku would be first choice commentators for any Premier League match, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

  17. Carolyn says:

    I did not know that Spain’s national anthem had no words but when Spain played their first match against Switzerland one of the commentators pointed this fact out. It was also mentioned on a couple more occassions during the tournament. So there’s no excuse for Ekoku not to have known this.

    I’ve found Ekoku very good when doing EPL games but have found him to be below par during this World Cup. Only John Harkes has been worse than Ekoku.

  18. Patrick says:

    YOU NAILED THEM!! AWESOME JOURNALISM!!

  19. EPL Junkie says:

    While I thought Efan was ok on some premiere league telecasts, he has been worse in the World Cup and the Tyler-Ekoku pairing is not impressive to me. With that being said, this post is a joke. This is a minor flub that I doubt nobody cares for. Announcers should be responsible for calling the game not trivia knowledge.

    Also, what happened to Ally McCoist? He seemed like a poor man’s Andy Gray. Him and Derek Rae just disappeared from the broadcast and should still be calling the games. I will say, though, that I have enjoyed Ian Darke because his calls absolutely excite me. It might be coincidence that he has gotten to call some of the most exiting games (moments in the tournament), such as the US games, Ghana-Urugauy, Van Bronchorst goal, and others.

  20. jon cav says:

    Anybody else pick up on the gaffe by Ian Dark referring to the World Cup as the Jules Rimet trophy? The Jules Rimet trophy was kept permanently by Brazil in 1970 after winning it 3 times.the trophy that replaced it [the one now in use ] is completely different in design and is known simply as the World Cup

  21. dave C says:

    I mentioned this on another thread, but I thought I’d add it here too:

    Regardless of whether the Spanish national anthem has words, it was still a dumb thing for Ekoku to say. Just because in England (and the US) it’s acceptable/expected that you sing along to the anthem, for all we know there may be countries that have anthems with lyrics, but where it is not expected that the average tone-deaf citizen is supposed to sing along. Maybe in some cultures you’re expected to just stand proud and listen.

    It’s wrong of him to assume that just because it’s the norm in England and the US, that he can criticize other countries for not following suit during their own anthems. It would be like Americans criticizing the English for not putting their hand over their heart during the English anthem, or Mexicans criticizing Swedes for not doing that funny little Mexican salute during the Swedish anthem. Not every country has the same norms.

  22. Howard McLaren says:

    Who cares if he didn’t know the Spanish National Anthem has no lyrics! How many of the posters on this thread knew before it was mentioned?? I didn’t and I don’t care.

    Efan is a great commentator. As an ex player he reads the game well and is very direct. It’s refreshing to hear his honest opinion. Compare it to the standard US sports commentator who spout syrupy thick sugar coated PC nonsense.

    Give me Efan any day. The most annoying commentator – Harkes! I hate the way he habitually has to try and pronounce the names of every player in their native language. It’s so bogus

  23. jedrury says:

    Howard is spot on.
    Harkes is terrible and Efan is tops; clear, concise who talks only when necessary. It is such a pleasure to hear him along with Tyler. Ian Darke is fine as well.

  24. BluemoonUSA says:

    EE has the personality of a dial tone and hardly, if ever, has anything positive to say. If a goal is scored, its always someone’s fault (which a few may be) and never the offensive team/player making a wonderful play. For me Ian Darke has stolen this WC. M. Tyler has been solid, but not at his best. I liked McCoist, but my thinking is he had to head back for pre-season for Rangers(just a guess). Its been a solid Cup but (aside from the ref’s in the news) nothing overly special. Some great endings but not a true classic from start to finish. Enjoyed it though and look forward to a great Final on Sunday. Cheers!

  25. Pakapala says:

    “In fairness to Ekoku and Tyler, it’s impossible to know everything about the 32 participating teams in the country. Ekoku made a mistake and presumed that the Spaniards neglected to sing the national anthem for other reasons other than the fact that the song has no words. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s still an embarrassing flub especially if you’re a Spain supporter.”
    by The Gaffer

    and that’s all there is to it! I mean I give you kuddos for at least having the gut to point out small mistakes like that from the brittish commentators, just like you would for the american commentators, still I don’t see the point of this article at all. Ekoku and Tyler not understanding the offside rules is more of a gaffe to me than not knowing that the spanish anthem has no words, or temporarily confusing Slovakia and Slovenia. One is a mistake about the game while the others are not.

  26. Al says:

    Who cares?

  27. gamester says:

    EE is a negative announcer who puts his foot in his mouth all the time.
    As pointed out, he’s constantly putting down players rather than complementing play. And his knowledge of the Laws is absolutely atrocious.
    Why he is constantly providing dark commentary for the WC final is unbelievable. What is wrong with ESPN to hire such a numbnut.

    It’s clear he’s never been a ref given his ridiculous comments about the ref’ing.

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