The World Cup is a dream. In June, some 600 players from around the world will assemble at stadiums and training grounds throughout Brazil to contest that dream. For viewers in the United States, soccer fans will be able to turn that dream into a reality through a host of viewing options from ESPN and Univision on TV, via the Internet and on smart phones and tablets.
Last week, I sat down with the president of Univision Deportes to learn more about his network’s exciting plans for the World Cup this summer.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez, President of Univision Deportes, is no stranger to the World Cup. Beginning in 1986, when he was studying industrial engineering in Mexico, he took some time off from school to work with FIFA. He never went back. Instead he became the youngest-ever executive member of the World Cup. The competition is in his blood.
“The World Cup challenge is very simple,” says Rodriguez. He wants Univision to create a new standard for the World Cup by which future coverage will be measured and will allow all of us who won’t be in Brazil to feel like we are there.
Imagine experiencing the excitement of the Brazil World Cup in your own home and at your fingertips — with exceptional coverage and an experience that can be enjoyed by both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking soccer fans.
The political and economic climate of Brazil has changed since the nation was given the hosting honors, a situation the team at Univision is aware of, having covered last year’s Confederations Cup, and Rodriguez doesn’t shy away from discussing these issues.
He is surprised when a program called ‘Con Pelotas’ is mentioned. It is a personal initiative of Rodriguez that has provided 200,000 soccer balls to children around the world. The idea grew after he took time to travel and photograph Soweto following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and saw what the kids were using as soccer balls: bundles of rags, trash, rolled up pieces of carpet. He describes the foundation’s goals: “With a soccer ball at your feet, you will never have arms in your hands.” It is a way of giving back, of seeing with the heart, and he speaks of it without pride, instead speaking about it in the tones of someone who feels it is an honor to be able give.
Some day he says he hopes to go to a World Cup as a fan. We can be glad that he didn’t choose this year to do it.