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In South Africa, Missing My Favorite Univision Announcer

One of the only bad parts about being here in South Africa for the World Cup is missing out on Univision’s Spanish-language coverage.

I should probably note that I don’t speak Spanish. Not fluently, at least. But I vastly prefer watching my fútbol en español. And being here, subjected to the dry and ramblingly irrelevant South African announcers on the local SABC and Supersport stations has reminded me just how superior the voices of Mexican television are on the global scale. Few if any commentators possess the passion and raw vocal talent of Univision’s Pablo Ramirez, arguably the most entertaining soccer announcer calling the game today.

I realized this back in 2006 during the World Cup. I had just finished college and was appropriately broke. Cable TV was not an option, and I was a little worried about finding a place to watch matches at 6 in the morning. But, showering down from those Los Angeles skies was a ray of visual gold: Univision, a station broadcasting all 64 of the matches free and direct to my apartment. It was during this obsessive viewing (and VHS recording) soccer orgy that I began to pay attention to the skill and style of Ramirez the Announcer.

I didn’t need to understand what he was saying, just how he was saying it. Exclamations over tackles, excitement about jukes, exasperation over missed set pieces – he called those games like he cared, and he really did. The voice was a true fan of the game, and still is. Listen no further than his trademark post-goal cry: “Goooooooool! Gol, gol, gol, gol, gol… Golazo! Azo, azo, azo!”

But it’s not just the love for the game that comes through, it’s his appreciation of the fact that it is, in the end, just a game--one meant to be fun and enjoyable. He clearly enjoys calling the matches and finding ways to make it entertaining. One highlight from the 2006 Cup was his late-night-radio-DJ-style call whenever Brazil’s Vagner Love hit the screen. It wasn’t just “Vagner Love”. It was “Vagner” and a deep, between-the-sheets “Looove”. Why? Because it’s funny.

Or, take his complete devastation when a shot is missed. “Se laaa perdiooooooooo!” It’s like whoever missed that shot let the whole world down.

This sort of emotion and passion is sorely lacking here in South Africa. I’m not too sure what’s going on back in the States, but my previous experience listening to announcers on American networks has me pretty confident that I’m not missing out on anything amazing (or anything even slightly above mediocre, for that matter).

For me, the 2010 World Cup has been a bit of a bummer compared to 2006 because I haven’t had my Mexican TV nor the voice of Pablo Ramirez. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the novelty; I couldn’t really understand more than 10% of what this guy was saying. But compared to most of the other announcers I’ve heard, Pablo Ramirez makes watching even the dullest 0-0 draw gripping, exciting, and--most importantly--entertaining.

“Y el arbitro dice que no hay tiempooooooooooo!”