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Nico Cantor interview: Soccer commentator at Univision

Nicolas “Nico” Cantor, the son of the most famous soccer television announcer in the United States regardless of language, was hired by Univision Deportes in January 2017 as as the English-language play-by-play voice of Liga MX matches on the Univision Deportes Facebook page and Major League Soccer (MLS) matches on the Second Audio Program (SAP) of Univision Deportes Network (UDN).

Nico’s father, legendary Argentine sportscaster Andrés Cantor, was at the right place at the right time when he called all 52 FIFA World Cup USA 1994 matches in Spanish for Univision Network in the United States.

Millions of English-speaking sports television viewers in the U.S. who were dissatisfied with the telecasts on ABC Sports and ESPN (which assigned Roger Twibell to the #1 commentary team, ahead of both Ian Darke and Bob Ley) switched to Univision, which mastered the art of producing soccer television in the U.S. market to connect with and retain young male viewers (ages 12-25 and 18-34) over 30 years ago by combining the right amounts of information, passion, and fun. Univision Deportes has continuously refined its sports television products over the years without ever allowing its products to go stale.

Andrés Cantor left Univision in 2000 and crossed over to NBC Sports, where he called men’s and women’s soccer matches in English during the Sydney 2000 Olympics (with Alexi Lalas and Amy Allmann Griffin as co-commentators).

Andrés Cantor landed at Telemundo Deportes in 2001, where he has been calling soccer matches and anchoring Olympic coverage in Spanish ever since (Telemundo was acquired by NBCUniversal in late 2001 and started Spanish-language Olympic coverage in 2004.)

Nico is a first-generation American who was born in Miami, Florida 23 years ago. He attended New York University, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism and Romance Languages in May 2016.

World Soccer Talk had an opportunity to speak with Nico Cantor over a variety of topics before he departed for Russia for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

World Soccer Talk: How did you land your opportunity to broadcast MLS and Liga MX matches in English for Univision Deportes?

Nico Cantor: Right after college, I started working with my dad’s radio company Fútbol de Primera (Radio), which had the rights to World Cup, Copa América, (CONCACAF) Gold Cup. The years before, every summer with my dad, I would get good opportunities broadcasting Gold Cups, doing sideline reporting. I had the chance to do mixed zone flash interviews. With each tournament, my responsibilities would get more important. After I graduated college, my father gave me a chance to broadcast soccer on the radio, in Spanish, together him during the Copa América Centenario Final. That was a very huge moment for me. After that summer, I stayed on the radio through December, on the daily soccer debate show Mondays through Fridays. I used that platform to catapult me into other mediums. I was learning from the best, the art of broadcasting soccer, in both languages. I have the best teacher, as I can learn anything I can from a legend of Spanish-language soccer broadcasting. I pick my dad’s brain all the time, and he loves helping me out. It is tough, constructive criticism, but it is the best. I take it as it is, because he wants to help me grow as much as I can. After that, I applied to a bunch of places. I landed the job at Univision and then they told me specifically that they want me to broadcast in English.

World Soccer Talk: How did you decide to become a professional broadcaster, in both English and Spanish? Did your father push you into it or did you decide to go into broadcasting on your own?

Cantor: It was almost inevitable that I would go into broadcasting. I remember since when I was little I would go into the studio with (my father). It was almost like a second nature for me. I would be in the booth, listening to him. It was a given that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, mainly for soccer. My dad was such a big influence to me. He didn’t really push me into it. I just kind of followed his footsteps naturally into his field. I am trying to give it a different spin. Because I have my dad as a Spanish-language legendary broadcaster, I kind of take from him the best parts and then kind of adorn the English broadcast with it. Everyone has his own style. I feel like on English-language broadcast from an Hispanic perspective or insight can work wonders in the United States especially when second generation Hispanics are beginning to listen to soccer broadcasts regularly in English.

World Soccer Talk: What advice did your father give you before you started broadcasting professionally for an entity other than Fútbol de Primera Radio?

Cantor: Practice, practice, and practice. My dad told me that I need to hone in and own the play-by-play.

World Soccer Talk: What did you learn from your father’s experience calling Sydney 2000 Olympic football matches in English for NBC Sports?

Cantor: I feel like when my father was at the Sydney Olympics, his English was much worse than what it is now. His broadcasts were like a translation from Spanish into English. On a day I do an English broadcast, I wake up in the morning and I listen to radio in English and read aloud in English so that I will have the right mindset to broadcast in English.

World Soccer Talk: We have noticed that you are experimenting with different ways to call matches in English. You did the Latin American long “gooooooooool” call several weeks ago right up to the San Jose vs Los Angeles Galaxy match on May 28, but you stopped doing the long “gooooooooool” call as of the Portland vs San Jose match on June 2. Can you tell us why you stopped doing the long “gooooooooool” call?

Cantor: The long “goooooooool” call is very Hispanic. It is for an audience who have reserved their ears for the call. I haven’t necessary abandoned the long “gooooooool” call during MLS broadcasts. I want to pick the right moment to do it, maybe when an Hispanic player scores a game winner in the 90th minute so that I can emphasize the greatness of the moment. I don’t want to sound so obnoxious to do the long “goooooooool” call with each goal.

World Soccer Talk: You used the Bob Ley short “Goal!” call during the Portland vs San Jose match on June 2, and you used the Marv Albert/Lisa Byington “Yes!” call during the Chicago vs Atlanta match on June 10. Have you settled on a preferred way to call goals yet in English? If so, which call will you use?

Cantor: I feel that the moment dictates how I will call the goal. I have been influenced by so many broadcasters inside and outside the United States. As a broadcaster, I am a reflection of what is happening during a game. Hopefully, I keep on perfecting my broadcasting style.

World Soccer Talk: Your father supported Argentine club Boca Juniors all his life and you seemed to have followed his passion for the club. Can you explain why you support Boca?

Cantor: I am a diehard Boca fan. When I was nine-ten years old, Boca was experiencing their most successful tenure with coach Carlos Bianchi. That’s when I wanted to be a Boca fan. When I studied abroad in Argentina, I would go every weekend to La Bombonera stadium (in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires). That’s where I found my intense passion for Boca.

World Soccer Talk: Can you tell us how you and your father landed the opportunity to star together in the Volkswagen Golf GTI TV commercial in 2014?

Cantor: Heh, heh, yeah! That was really fun. That was my summer of fame among my friends. Credit goes to my dad’s agent (Raul Mateu of Fluent Media Group). He really hooked one up for me when I was in college.

World Soccer Talk: Best of luck in your future endeavors. We will keep watching and listening as we track your progress. Thank you very much for your time.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Viene Viene gooool

    December 22, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Bumping this up on December 22. Happy 55th birthday to Andrés Cantor.

  2. Cantona

    September 27, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Post resides i the WTF file.. as nonsensical nothingness post of the year….

    Cantona—

  3. Oliver Tse

    September 27, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Nico Cantor was on the call during the Red Cross Earthquake/Hurricane relief fundraiser on ESPNEWS, FS2, FusionTV, and beINSportsUSA:

    twitter.com/Nicocantor1/status/913114025168433152

  4. Oliver Tse

    August 4, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Yet another example of why the Latin American “goooooooool” call is so difficult to execute properly in an English-language broadcast:

    twitter.com/Nicocantor1/status/892570190092914688

    In this example, Nico Cantor did NOT build up to the call. He was at least 3 seconds late. Furthermore, there was no natural “flow” leading up to the call.

    As a result, the “goooooool” call sounds forced and out of place.

    Spanish-language announcers build up to the “gooooooool” call in a few ways:

    1. They use Spanish words that end with the letter “o”, such as tiro (kick), disparo (shot), and cabezazo (header). Those words do NOT end with a vowel in English.

    2. They drag out the last syllable of the goal scorer’s game after the player shoots the ball. Example: Ronaldoooooooooooooooooooooo!

    3. They use short helper words in succession. Andres Cantor uses “viene, viene” (go, go). Jorge Ramos of ESPN Deportes (TV and Radio) uses “pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum…”

    During the late 1990s, a few English-language soccer announcers in the U.S. experimented with the “gooooooooool” call. No one was able to build up to the call consistently well.

    Max Bretos (then of FOX Sports World) tried it during Argentine and Chilean league matches.

    Bob Ley tried it during the opening match of the 1999 Women’s World Cup on ABC Sports, but abandoned the experiment after just one match. Ley quit calling soccer completely after the USA-Iran men’s friendly from the Rose Bowl in January 2000.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, John Shrader (now teaching at San Jose State University) tried it during San Jose Clash/San Jose Earthquakes MLS regional telecasts on FOX Sports Bay Area (now NBC Sports Bay Area). Shrader was the only one who was semi-consistent with his buildup to the long gooooooool call.

    John Strong experimented with the long gooooooool call as a teenager in school, but he quickly abandoned it because “it sounded terrible”. Strong now drags out the vowel if a goal scorer’s name ends with a vowel, for about 4 to 5 seconds, instead of doing the long goooooooool call.

    • Oliver Tse

      August 10, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      One correction to the comment above:

      The helper words Andres Cantor uses to build up to his signature goooooooool call, viene, viene, viene, translates to “it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming,” with “it” referring to the ball coming toward the goal.

      Viene is the 3rd person singular form of the verb venir, which means “to come toward an object or person.”

      • Stranger Things

        August 10, 2017 at 5:41 pm

        You are strange…….to put it semi nicely.

    • Oliver Tse

      August 12, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Video evidence of Bob Ley doing the gooooooooool call, for a duration of 3 seconds, which was much longer than his usual “goal!” call of less than 1 second:

      youtu.be/cPA1i3PzAek

      Go to the 1:48:40 mark of the video to listen.

      “….Kristine Lilly….KRISTINE LILLY……GOOOOOOOOOOOOL”

      ESPN, which was in charge of ABC Sports at the time of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, assigned Bob Ley instead of JP DellaCamera to the opening match because Bob Ley was the “bigger name”.

      Ley called the match with Wendy Gebauer Palladino, who didn’t do much analysis. Gebauer had a day job as a stockbroker, as she managed Mia Hamm’s money among others, so she was conflicted and she could not criticize her clients.

      Ley was trying to add a bit of “Latin Flair” to his play-by-play. He used the term fanaticos to describe the U.S. fans and he lengthened his goal call to 3 seconds.

      Ley didn’t call another Women’s World Cup match, as JP took over as the #1 pxp man for the rest of the tournament.

      Ley quit calling soccer altogether after the USMNT-Iran men’s friendly at the Rose Bowl in January 2000 (the crowd was over 90% pro-Iran) because he was too busy with the launch of the daily edition of Outside the Lines

      Holly Rowe (yes, the Salt Lake City-based sideline reporter for college football and basketball on ESPN, who survived abdomen cancer a few years ago) was the #2 play-by-play announcer, paired with Seamus Malin (a Harvard University administrator who called soccer on the side for over 2 decades). Rowe didn’t really know what she was doing, but few were watching so no one really complained.

      Derek Rae (who did pxp with an American accent at the time) was the #3 play-by-play announcer. He was paired with Amy Allmann (who was demoted to the #3 team after she had a poor performance calling a friendly match with JP in Fresno, California on a December day with snow flurries.)

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