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Interview with Toby Charles: Bundesliga commentator

Interview with Toby Charles

Listen to our interview with Toby Charles to hear the story behind Soccer Made In Germany, the cult TV show.

Toby Charles interview: Background

After searching for two years to locate him, World Soccer Talk has found Toby Charles and has interviewed the football commentating legend about the impact he has had on viewers in North America, his memories of German soccer, his thoughts about Martin Tyler, who his famous cousins were, his favorite Bundesliga team and much much more.

Toby Charles’s commentaries are legendary in soccer circles. This is true especially among children and adults in the 1980s wanting to watch soccer on television. His show ran on PBS from 1976 to 1988 and featured highlights of Bundesliga matches.

His phrases during commentaries are legendary, and are still remembered by many soccer fans over 30 years later. And the impact he made can be better understood by this heartfelt letter to Toby Charles.

Meanwhile, here is a video of one of his commentaries here:

HEAR MORE: Listen to our interview with Bundesliga commentator Phil Bonney

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What questions do you have about our interview with Toby Charles? Tell us in the comments section.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. J. Brown

    December 6, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you very much for this audio interview! Toby Charles is indeed a legend! Due to “Soccer Made in Germany” and Mr. Charles’ World Cup coverage also from 1982, he educated several generations of English speaking fans about the Beautiful Game. Yes, specifically this hour-long broadcast was ideal. Please do not forget that Toby Charles or PBS (or both) made it possible to receive a weekly “Soccer Made in Germany” pamphlet. It was like a 8 to 10 page weekly newsletter with some pictures featuring the German game. This is how we all learned about Briegel, Breitner, Rumminigge, the Allofs brothers, the Forster brothers, Hrubesch, Schuster, Schumacher, and oh so many more. His broadcast enthusiasm was evident in every show. Think about it? Boys in the middle of America learning about Fortuna Dusseldorf, the Borrussias, VfB Stuttgart, and Schalke 04. Learning about something called the DFB Pokal. Yes, he was teaching us German geography too as well as other the locations of other European cities due to the various international competitions in which the German Bundesliga clubs played. Mr. Charles’ style of broadcasting is what is still needed. He clearly stated his words, his diction was clear. And – so important – he was quiet during the broadcast when there was nothing to say. And: He did not oversell it; if the quality of play was poor, he did not try to dress it up in false platitudes. Today all one hears is non-stop babbel & drivel from the two or more talking heads in every TV soccer broadcast of the EPL or LaLiga, Serie A. It’s nauseating, Comparatively Mr. Charles quietly went about educating us on the game and the prominent names in the West German game. Thank you, Mr. Charles. I knew for years that you had retired to Cologne, so I hope you have enjoyed all of your golden years there on the Rhein River. Thanks to you and all who made those German Bundesliga broadcasts possible. You were a blessing to my upbringing (in ways you will never know 😉 Note to readers here: If you want to listen to how a broadcaster ought to broadcast, find audio and/or video of Mr. Charles’ coverage of the FIFA World Cup held in Spain in 1982. THAT is how one does professional commentary. Yes, FIFA owes this man millions for how he welcomed tens of thousands of fans to the international game.

  2. SF Martz

    June 13, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Mr. Harris – Just finding this interview, years later, is like being really late to the party, But Charles affiliation with SMIG had such an impact, I thought it prudent to send this note. Thank you for making it available to all of us aging soccer players & fans who grew up glued to SMIG and listening to Toby’s great whit and one of a kind play calling. I often wondered whatever happened to Charles, which prompted a recent search and my finding the interview and fan letter. Reading the commentaries is really a joy – to know that so many youth players from across the States in the late 70s and 80s had the same memories. There was nothing better than spending a Fri or Sat watching GA Public Television when the German network broadcast the weekly Bundesliga game. Even the “Half Time, Newsbreak” of Germany was a treat in days before cable or soccer were ever thought to be broadcast on US airwaves. In the SMIG world, Charles had such a profound mark on our generation – something I’m glad he is aware of. As a result of that lasting impression, I share SMIG with my soccer-playing kids, speak German, and continue to take trips to the motherland – all stemming from those years being exposed to Bundesliga culture and Charles broadcasts. Pretty crazy. Some time ago, I found a gentleman who had copies of SMIG games and would send DVDs by order. Reliving those matches is a terrific time warp. If you know how to send Charles an email or any other form of contact, it would be greatly appreciated. By the math, he would be 80 now and hopefully still in good form a few years after the interview.

  3. David Kerans

    July 19, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Superb indeed, I enjoyed both the reminiscing and the insights. Apart from “Soccer Made in Germany” with Toby Charles played a real role in propelling the sport here. We had virtually no connection to the European sports scene overall, and precious little football (for a while PBS was also showing an edited game each week from the English First Division, Mario Machado commenting). Thanks for keeping this up (I only caught it now, in 2018, thanks to an internet search on Toby).

  4. Geof

    June 4, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Great interview; bring back the memories.

  5. Brendan

    August 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Great stuff. I was a regular viewer of Soccer Made in Germany on Sunday mornings in the 70s. Very much enjoyed hearing Toby again. Wish I’d found this seven years ago!

  6. mike

    July 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I thought I’d prep for Sunday’s final by re-listening to this great, great interview.

    This is almost seven years old now, but it still delivers. What memories this brings up for those of us of a certain generation ….

    Well done, Gaffer!

    • Christopher Harris

      July 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks Mike. It was one of the most memorable interviews I did. Glad that soccer fans are still getting enjoyment out of it.

  7. alton gillis

    June 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    wonderful interview with the incomparable Toby Charles…back in the day 1970’s i loved to listen to Toby as much as i watched the game. his colorful comments kept me entertained if not exceeding the play on the pitch…well done all!

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