The World Cup is fast approaching and for Telemundo Deportes, the U.S Spanish-speaking sports network, this is a monumental opportunity to build a stronger bridge between the U.S Hispanic community and the biggest sports event in the world.
SI previously reported Telemundo’s plans to focus on the cultural significance of the tournament, offering a home where each Latin-American nation will be represented or celebrated in one way or another in its 500 hours of TV coverage, more than 1,000 hours of programming and original content across social and digital platforms.
"We want to create a cultural movement, and literally a mind shift to Telemundo," said Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes, speaking in a conference call from Miami back in November. "And also move away from previous people who have had the World Cup, and those who may have it in a different language this year. We want to let everyone know we will have the most exciting and authentic coverage to all Hispanics across all platforms regardless of language."
Recently, Telemundo added unique talent to its team, including U.S. U-20 national team coach and youth technical director Tab Ramos and former players such as Uruguayan Diego Forlan, Peruvian Teofilo “Nene” Cubillas and Mexico’s Jesus Ramirez.
The biggest acquisition, however, is the experienced voice of Viviana Vila, the Argentinian journalist and analyst who, alongside Fox Soccer’s Aly Wagner, becomes the first woman to offer in-match commentary for the World Cup in the U.S, regardless of language.
“I am so honored and excited to be part of Telemundo’s team and I want people to know I am here to not just enjoy the ride,” says Vila, who values the importance of this moment and emphasizes the fact that she doesn’t take this role lightly. “I am going to Russia to work my hardest and give you the best that I have, with this excellent team.”
With a tremendous amount of experience on the job, Vila has been covering soccer for radio and television since 1999. For the last 17 years, she has been working for Radio Continental de Buenos Aires, providing local and international coverage.
In 2004, she made her debut as an analyst alongside Victor Hugo Morales, one of the most legendary sportscasters in Argentina. With nearly 1000 matches under her belt, she has worked and given analysis for several tournaments including Copa Argentina, Copa Libertadores and the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
While talking to Vila, the excitement over the World Cup is clearly visible, as she offers her views on some of favorites (France’s depth, Belgium’s talent) and the feel-good story of the moment, Mohamed Salah and Egypt. “I think one of the highlights we’re all waiting for is to see the wonderful Salah, especially since recently reading everything he has gone through since leaving Cairo, and how Egyptians adore him. It’s going to be wonderful to see what they do.”
In regards to Argentina, Vila feels much has to improve in order for the team to succeed. “After what happened against Spain, it’s evident that Sampaoli’s squad has a lot to do. And it can’t be all down to Lionel Messi, there are many players like Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuaín who have a lot to live up to in order to succeed in Russia. And they all deserve to take this opportunity and make the most of it.”
Despite the attention being given to the men’s tournament, Vila took some time to discuss the heroic, hard-working women’s national team, who just recently ended in third place at the Copa America Femenina, meaning they have a playoff match against the Concacaf nation for a spot in next year’s Women’s World Cup.
“We have to remember the sacrifices the women’s squad has gone through. It’s a story that has gone on for a long time including not getting financial assistance to train, pay inequality, and resources. Instead of flying to the tournament, for example, they had to take buses.”
For Vila, this is all part of a cultural mindset, where even though things are improving in South America such as the growth of women’s leagues in the continent, there’s still a long way to go.
“When I was a kid, if you were a girl and wanted to play with a soccer ball, your parents would take the ball from you and hand you a doll. It was inexcusable for a woman to be considered a soccer player,” she says resiliently. “Eventually, these women, who kept hearing no, who wanted to play, got together with others who shared their love for soccer and formed an unbreakable bond.”
Telemundo has selected a talented, experienced Latin American woman as part of its team for the World Cup and for Vila, this moment is also an opportunity to send a message to million of young Latinas in the U.S. who will be watching and hearing her voice during the tournament.
“I want them to know that you should never stop dreaming or working hard for what you want, and keep climbing and reaching for your goals. Because something is crystal clear: the future is female.”