“I feel a bit like I’m married to MotoGP” – Interview with Haraszti Ádám

Lovers of motorsports and international football must have come across the name of Haraszti Ádám, one of Digisport’s leading commentators who, until recently, was in charge of MotoGP and Premier League, the top-tier of English football. Although he does not give the impression of a seasoned veteran, Ádám has been working in the media for more than 10 years, and has gathered experience in various disciplines, ranging from football and motorsports to beach volleyball and ice hockey, in addition to 1serving as Digisport’s field reporter at the 2012 London Olympics.

I first get to “know” you in the role of a MotoGP commentator. Have you always wanted to pursue this career?

It would be an exaggeration and a lie to say that I have always wanted to cover MotoGP! I’ve always been interested in motorsports since I was a kid, but I preferred the automobile disciplines, football and basically all kinds of sports. When I started working at Telesport, I dealt with various technical sports, and afterwards a rather lucky situation arose when MotoGP coverage was taken over by MTV – this is how I got close to it. Obviously when Talma started racing I followed it more closely (as there was finally someone to cheer for); This was the reason why I started to follow MotoGP, and then I was fortunate enough to land a position as MotoGP commentator as my first serious and continuous job. Thank God our story is a rather long one ever since.

How do you get into this business? By nepotism or favouritism…?

It’s not about getting in, it’s about remaining there which is the harder part. Working people are a necessity everywhere, and that’s how I got into Telesport back then when I was employed in lots of different positions. You can get into a lot of places; it’s another story whether you manage to stay in there, whether you can produce such things that would persuade your employers that you’re worth being kept.

2It is said that nowadays being a commentator requires no great skills as you have lots of papers in front of you that you can read from. Is there a limit to using supplementary materials while trying not to impoverish the spontaneity of broadcasting?

I believe you simply cannot commentate solely from papers. Obviously on those papers you have there are lots of important and interesting stuff, but you have to decide on the extent to which you are going to rely on them. There are quite a lot of things that you have to be aware of. It’s another question whether these things stick to your mind, how important you deem them to be, or how much assistance you need to recall them. When I cover MotoGP, I usually have three sheets of paper before me, one for the lower classes and two for the GP itself. I am lucky enough to have been working in this position for quite a long time, so much so that these have become an integral part of my everyday life. I don’t prepare for a race saying that “now I sit down and look for such and such”; I don’t have to check what kind of a track Motegi is and what are its characteristics because I have covered so many races that I know them all. Furthermore, I keep myself up-to-date in the sense that there’s my Twitter account, I always scan the news, you don’t have to put a gun to my head to make me feel interested towards MotoGP because I am already interested.

What about young Hungarian racers? Are we going to have another Talmácsi some time in the future, or any other news from the feeder series? As far as I know, Gyutai Adrián had one outing as a wild card rider last season.

Yes, he raced at Misano last year. There is a guy now who’s going to enter this weekend’s Red Bull Rookies’ Cup qualifier, but I don’t follow his races so closely to be able to say anything… Hungary at the moment is a bit better off now as there’s a Hungarian team in the World Superbike Championship, there’s a well-known Hungarian rider – this was not the case for a long time – but obviously the most frequent thing that is brought up is that starting off is extremely difficult. It’s not by chance that such a long time had elapsed before Hungarian bikers could take part in championship races. I wouldn’t dare to pronounce a future date for this, many stars need to align.

You mentioned that your main occupations are MotoGP and Premier League, but now both of them got transferred from Digisport to Spíler TV. Does the crew move with them as well?

No, at least as far as I know… I would be quite surprised if it did.

Is there going to be any continuation of motorsport coverage on Digisport?3

I don’t know, I really don’t. The problem is that we have minimal impact on how things turn out, as a commentator I have basically no impact, and we in Hungary are a branch of an international enterprise, so things get decided over our heads. Plus, however strange it may sound, we usually get information in the very last minutes – sadly, as this is not ideal from the point of view of getting prepared. Fortunately there are many series in the motorsports field, not necessarily on two wheels, but we’ve covered e.g. NASCAR, Indycar, Formula E and F3 as well.

And what if in exchange you got F1? Would you accept it, even knowing that large masses view F1 and they are very critical about those in the announcer’s seat?

No questions about that! In terms of technical sports, F1 is the most elite thing you can cover. It would be nice, but with MotoGP… it’ll sound a bit silly but I feel like we’re married or are in a serious relationship. If you spend ten years of your life together with someone, they become an inseparable part of your days. I try to chase away the thought of ‘what’s next’. Of course there have already been similar instances in my life; I departed from MTV mid-season, but the difference is that back then there was a strong likelihood of – or at least suspicions of – transferring MotoGP to Digisport from next season onwards. There were attempts and negotiations made as to broadcast practices and qualifying sessions live on Digi because they weren’t broadcast on MTV, so we suspected this farewell wasn’t the final one. The present farewell, I don’t really know what happens next, how it turns out; I haven’t thought about it hard yet. I developed very strong bonds with these guys, even if in a physical sense I’ve very rarely met them. Let’s take Simone Corsi, he got on the grid one or two years before I started this business, and he’s been constantly there ever since. Getting on the same level with anything else would mean a dedication of years at the least; obviously F1 is something that you are more or less familiar with, I have experiences and memories connected to it, but not as much as I had even a couple of years ago.

 The Hungaroring is currently being revamped and there were talks of making it compatible with motor racing. Do you see any chance of MotoGP getting here?

Interesting question… I don’t know whether it’s in the interest of MotoGP and Dorna (the company in charge of the sport) to have another race in Central Europe; there’s Brno and Austria after all. And besides, it seems that Asia is the region that the sport is aspiring for, a good example being the newly-founded Asia Talent Cup. It’s not a coincidence either to have a race in Thailand in the Superbike championship, they are testing the track for a potential MotoGP event there. Indonesia is another country eager to get involved, so in this respect I’m not sure they want to have another European, especially Central European race. I would be utterly happy of course, but that’s another question.

Which track would you visit the most?

Donington, even though that’s not in the calendar any more, but that was my favourite one. From the current ones I would pick Phillip Island, that’s an amazing track, I love it very much, but honestly I wouldn’t be too picky when it came to that! It would be great to get to Mugello some time, that’s very high on my list for sure, then Laguna Seca (though that’s another past track) would be interesting too. And obviously Assen.

5Many riders change teams next year: Lorenzo leaving Yamaha for Ducati, Iannone Ducati for Suzuki and Viñales Suzuki for Yamaha – going in circles, basically. Do you think Lorenzo made the right decision considering that even Rossi couldn’t propel Ducati to the top? Don’t you think it’s a career suicide from his part to take a step backwards?

Well, good question. Lorenzo now has an opportunity owing to Ducati – a project funded very heavily, despite there not being big Marlboro badges everywhere, Philip Morris sponsors them substantially as well, and let’s not forget about new owners Audi –; now is the chance for him to mount a bike capable of winning and being competitive, as proved by the Austrian victory. Also, you cannot leave out of the equation the fact that he’s going to earn tons of money with this two-year contract. He has to grab this chance as it’s debatable whether he could have fought out such a salary at Yamaha.

Not that he needs it.

Something many people forget is that a racer’s career is incredibly short at most times, and it can end from one moment to another. Lorenzo now got the opportunity to try out something new, to get new impulses – after all, he’s spent his entire career at Yamaha so far. What’s also obvious now is that this project at Ducati is really serious, in addition to having Luigi dall’Igna on board whom Lorenzo knows very well back from their time at Aprilia – they had huge success together, so he must see some assurance of potentially repeating this success now in this Ducati…

Let’s leave racing for a while and change topics to the Olympics. What’s your opinion of this year’s coverage? Commentators came in for a lot of criticism such as lacking expertise, relying too heavily on papers, and the channel not really trying to procure the suitable people.

It’s always a difficult situation. I remember my time at MTV and how I felt when the channel brought in colleagues from outside to work on certain programmes. Evidently they’re trying to keep it traditional; there’s this endeavour to use their own people, which is perfectly understandable. On the other hand, you would be inclined to think that the Olympics is something of a supreme thing, the most-most-most-most important event. I would rather say that their trust was way too much; some of the commentators you had very rarely heard before in this role. They found themselves in a tough environment where experience and routine are crucial. Bearing in mind that some of these guys sat down 4before the microphone with a very limited amount of experience, they performed decently. On another note, the viewers don’t have to care about it all. We don’t need to care about how long this particular guy has been working there and what he’d done previously. It’s entirely down to subjectivity how much you liked or disliked what they did. It’s strange that it ended up like this, given the good deal of fuss going on when this whole M4 sport channel project was launched. Unfortunately, it seems now a tendency in these types of projects that the least attention should be paid to those actually carrying out the work and covering the event. At certain disciplines they managed to choose people whose expertise in that sport cannot be called into question, like Horváth Mariann in fencing. It’s puzzling from this respect that quality was not the topmost requirement in those sports that had long been declared Hungary’s best opportunities to win medals at. I don’t know on what bases they allocated the roles – well, everyone has their suspicions, of course, but this is a very delicate business. Doubtless, it could have been handled better.

Do you think Hungary has a real chance to host the Olympics in 2024? There’s a big push coming from everywhere; and Gyurta Dániel was elected as one of the members of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission, his mandate expiring in 2024. Could this point to the Olympics being held at Budapest?

I don’t think the two has much in common. Realistically speaking, I don’t deem Budapest to be an adequate city for this purpose, to organise the Olympics in the way and manner that would be required. We’re talking about new venues and facilities, other infrastructure, let alone the capacity of the city and accommodation… I doubt Budapest could cope with such masses.

Is there any discipline you would never call?

I wouldn’t say so, though at a time I really struggled with water polo; it would be a very good example to answer your question, but I can’t recall other things now. It would be wrong to make rush statements about not wanting to call a given sport, though. I had an experience with beach volleyball in, I believe, 2011. I was terrified when I first heard about my having to cover the beach volleyball world championships. It came as a bolt from the blue, we didn’t have much time to prepare for it; I really wetted myself then as I had never dealt with it before – but it turned out to be a memorable experience, I truly got to like it.

Switching to football, do you think the Hungarian national team will have the same level of success at the World Cup as at the Euro?

6Well, I don’t think so, especially considering that we’re quite far away from actually winning a place at the World Cup. For a starter, it was much easier to qualify for the Euro: from each group two-and-a-half teams qualified basically. Besides, fewer European teams are at the World Cup, and our group is quite a hard one. Now we have Portugal – the European champions – and Switzerland, which is a not much worse team than Portugal; of course they don’t have players like Ronaldo, but the team itself is quite solid. From this respect, it’s applaudable that we managed to keep the match against the Swiss so tightly. All in all, our situation doesn’t look too bright.

Obviously there are higher expectations following the performance at the Euro.

Yes, and that’s a foolish thing to do considering everything I mentioned now: we qualified for the Euro thanks to the raised limit and the easy group. And to think of it, the way we started the qualifying process, with that flop against Northern Ireland… we fought bravely against the odds then, that was heroic, but that doesn’t mean that the Hungarian football seriously improved. Had the Euro again been held with 16 teams, we wouldn’t even have been close to qualifying. Nevertheless, our team took a step forward, mainly owing to the present and the preceding head coaches; we’re certainly better placed in this respect than in any of the previous qualifying processes. However, taking into account the current balance of forces, we don’t have much chance to get to the World Cup.

Are there any positives about the team, any developments?

Basically what the team achieved at the Euro is something extraordinary: nobody can take this away from them and nobody should. I think the mere fact of qualifying for the Euro was overvalued and that’s why too high expectations were raised regarding the team – though as for the World Cup qualification, fortunately I haven’t heard fanatic voices demanding that “we must qualify!” It would be a miracle just to snatch second place in this group. I really like what the team now looks like, and this has become a really amiable team; it’s heart-warming to see the way they play and perform. The reaction of the crowd at the match against Switzerland underlines this point: they applauded a team that had lost the match. Previously you could never have imagined such a thing in Hungary. These guys have worked hard to convert the audience to their side, to win their sympathy and appreciation; this is a sign above all, this indicates there might be good times to come. A part of this is that the chairman of the MLSZ is a person who has reached a lot in his life; in Csányi Sándor we are talking about a serious man, who understands how to set up a business and make is successful (football is business, after all). You have to employ people who lead your business in the desired direction. In our case this business is the future success of the Hungarian football, more precisely the national team; and with Bernd Storck, it seems, they managed to choose the right person to lead the team forward.

Gyimesi Brigitta

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