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Published on 9 July 2012
Natalka worked as one of our volunteer audio descriptive commentators in Gdansk as part of the UEFA Respect Inclusion - Football with No Limits project. Here are her thoughts on the experience.
I found out about audio description by accident. I found an advert on the Internet that was looking for volunteers who would provide live commentary during the Euro games for blind supporters. I was very interested, so I decided to send my application in.
I received the answer very quickly, and a month later I attended a two-day training course in Warsaw with twenty five people. The course was led by two Austrians - Martin Zwischenberger and Gregor Waltl (they also were involved in the UEFA Euro 2008 Audio description service, and the tournament was co-hosted by their home country and Switzerland). I remember that everything made a very positive impression on me, and the event was organised in a very professional way.
We were then told to do some practical exercises to provide live commentary of football matches. We recorded it and sent back to the coaches. Out of the twenty six people who took part in the training, only eight were left (two people for each Polish host city, and the same amount in Ukraine). The competition was big and I will never forget the day that I found out I was selected for the job! I was the happiest person in the world! It was an incredible feeling. I was very glad, but I felt a huge responsibility because I wanted to do my best and didn’t want to disappoint the people who trusted me.
I was counting days down to the beginning of the tournament and I could not wait for this event. I knew it would be great, but it was even better than expected. Previously, I took part in several major sporting events – I attended four EuroBasket tournaments, I also went to a women basketball World Championships in the Czech Republic. But none of this can be compared to UEFA Euro 2012. It was a totally different world, marked by high level of professionalism. I was truly impressed. Another thing that impressed me was the fact that the organisers treated us like normal journalists. At the press tribune there was space prepared for us, with monitors, where we could watch the action replays and find statistics of the games.
A few metres from our desk, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and legendary defender Bixente Lizarazu were providing live commentary for French TV. In the media centre, I met journalists from all over the world. Everything was so impressive.
In Gdansk we provided audio descriptive commentary for four matches (three in Group C: Spain vs Italy, Spain vs Ireland and Croatia vs Spain, and a quarter final: Germany vs Greece). Our work was similar to providing radio commentary, but with very important differences. During each match we had to be extremely focused, because we had to carefully observe everything both on the pitch and in the stands. We were only interested in what was happening at the stadium, so did not have time to tell anecdotes or bombard listeners with news. Another duty I had was to inform the listener (about every 5 minutes) about the current score of the match. In addition, we also had to specify the location of the ball. People, who wanted to listen to us didn’t need to have any special equipment – a small radio or cell phone with radio and headphones was enough.
Each day at work looked almost the same. We came to the stadium four hours before the match. We brought the equipment, plugged it in, then checked if it worked fine. Then we went to the media centre to prepare for the match. The audio descriptive commentary started about 10 minutes before the first whistle, and ended when all the players left the pitch and went to the dressing room. During our first match in Gdansk, we commentated on the big match-up between Spain and Italy. Before that, we were a little stressed, but it got better when we put on the headphones and started broadcasting. The stress was gone.
Those two weeks I spent in Gdansk passed quickly, actually too fast. Volunteering at UEFA EURO 2012 was a very valuable experience. I am glad that during this tournament I could help disabled people. Each of us contributed to the tournament in our own way and it is true that, together, we created a whole reality! I hope that after this tournament, audio description will be a standard in everyday life, because blind people also deserve to have access to cinema, sports events or theatre performances. Let's change the world for the better!
The Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) is the official tournament charity of UEFA EURO 2012 and delivered the UEFA Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits project. One aspect of the project was to provide audio descriptive commentary at each match for blind and partially sighted supporters. For more information about CAFE, please visit www.cafefootball.eu. You can find out more about the UEFA Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits project at http://euro2012.cafefootball.eu.