Hij heeft de looks van Kevin De Bruyne, was keeper in de lokale jeugdvoetbalclub en zijn grootvader kleedde hem steevast in een Juventus-outfit. Niet verwonderlijk dus dat professor Matteo Fermeglia van de eenheid Omgevingsrecht een groot voetballiefhebber werd. Meer nog, in zijn vrije tijd geeft Matteo live voetbalcommentaar op de radio in Triëste. “Als radiocommentator vertrouwen mensen op wat jíj ziet. Hoe jíj het spel interpreteert en begrijpt wat er op het veld gebeurt. Dat gevoel van verantwoordelijkheid is magisch.”
De redactie van Nu Weet Je Het, het personeelsblad van UHasselt, sprak met Matteo over zijn passie voor voetbal én radio!
On special match days, ten thousand listeners in Triëste, Italy, tune in to hear his live radio commentary on the football game of local team Triestina. Meet Matteo Fermeglia, expert in environmental and climate law at Hasselt University and voluntary radio commentator in Italy. “As a radio commentator, people rely on what you see. How you interpret the game and understand what is happening on the field. That sense of responsibility is magical.”
“As a kid, I have always been fascinated by football. I played as a goalkeeper my whole sports career. And I have always loved the narrative that goes behind football. The way football commentators can convey the sport to people, definitely on the radio, is so powerful.”
Matteo Fermeglia has a sparkle in his eyes when he talks about his - quite professional - hobby. Whenever he has the time, Matteo will give live commentary on the local radio in his Italian hometown Triëste. “Together with a friend, I comment on the matches of our local team Triestina (Serie C). We get around 10.000 listeners, for sure if the game is not broadcasted on tv. Supporters, even Italians living in Belgium, Australia or Thailand tune in on our radio station to follow their favourite team. Yes, Italians are crazy about football (laughs).”
In normal daily life, Matteo is an expert in environmental law, working for our Center for Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Law. His love for football and passion for live commentary started at a young age. “As a kid, together with a friend, I was already giving live comments on our Fifa matches on the PlayStation. Super nerdy (laughs). But things got a bit more serious when I was 14 years old. As a youth player I got the chance to write reports in the local newspaper and blogs about the games of my own first team. Until the age of 21, I mostly wrote the pagelle, those are the grades a player gets after a match. A very popular item in Italy. After the game, I would go to the locker room and tell everyone their score and give a bit of explanation. Yes, sometimes there were some conflicts (laughs) but it was really a fun thing to do and the players liked the fact that I was so passionate about this. And of course, I didn’t grade the trainer, because then he would bench me (laughs).”
“After that, a close friend of mine, who is a professional sports journalist in Triëste, asked me if I could help him. He knew I was passionate about sports journalism and he started with radio commenting for Triestina. He was looking for a sidekick. We talked about this, drank some wine and I decided to give it a try. At that moment Triestina just recovered from a difficult period. They were playing in Serie D, almost went bankrupt and just found a new owner. All the supporters in the city were eager to see what the future would bring. Everyone hoped for the team to revive out of their ashes. And since there was no broadcasting of the matches yet, we were the only medium everyone could tune in to hear about the team. A fantastic period.”
Behind the mic
“The first time behind the microphone was a bit overwhelming, I was really shy. But over the months I felt more comfortable and I started to find the right words and created my own narrative. I love to stress some words in my comments, to help people recognise what’s going on at the pitch. I use that too in my Hasselt University classes, I must say (laughs). Most of the time my friend and I were giving comments together, we really created our own chemistry behind the microphone. But two times I did live commenting alone. The first time was during an Italian cup game which ended with penalties. Talking for more than 120 minutes, and always trying to give some pathos. That was hard. Unfortunately, we lost the game, so my friends said I jinxed it by talking way too much (laughs).”
Aquaro! Aquaro! Aquaro!
“My most heroic game was when Triestina qualified for Serie C. The stadium was packed with around 30.000 supporters. In every bar in the city centre, they tuned in to hear our comments. We needed to at least draw to get promoted in the play-offs finals. But we were 0-1 behind. And then - football has parts of magic - in the 93rd minute a corner kick: our central defender Giuseppe Aquaro, got the ball and scored the decisive goal. The whole stadium went out of their minds, including me. There is still a video with me and my colleague’s audio. We kept screaming: Aquaro! Aquaro! Aquaro! I kept on going. We were shouting and hugging people, supporters threw themselves onto us to celebrate. I still meet people in Trieste who smile at me and start screaming Aquaro! (laughs).”
“Of course, radio commenting is only a hobby, I don’t get paid. But I spend around 2 hours researching every game. I have to get to know the players of the other teams and look up anecdotes, statistics, and fun facts. I write it down on sheets of paper and have it all in front of me on my desk. But Trieste is a windy city (laughs). A couple of times my papers flew away in the first five minutes. All of my preparations were gone. Yes, that’s a challenge (laughs) and a lot of improvisation.”
The beauty of sports
“Now that I live in Brussels whenever I have the time I try to go to a match to give comments, but it’s not that often anymore. My last radio comment was in September. But I try to be involved as much as possible. I even once gave a radio interview about a game when I was at Columbia University in the US. During the break, they would call in to hear my comments on the match. And I still remember, there was a professor who is one of the best WTO lawyers in the world, who heard me talking about football. He understood Italian and asked me what I was doing. And turned out he was a huge football fan as well. So, in New York, I started discussing Serie C football with a top-ranked lawyer. It was a great moment. And then you realize, sports really bring people together. It can craft a society. And I am very proud to play my own small part.”
Best Italian football player:
Alessandro Del Piero. Without a doubt. He was captain of Juventus - my favourite Serie A team - forever. He is truly part of Italian football history.
Gianluigi Buffon. My biggest role model, he has always been the reference point in my own sports career.
Best Belgian football player:
That’s a difficult one. Italians are of course fond of Dries Mertens. He made history in Napoli. But the best player is Kevin De Bruyne. Because it’s my nickname since I look like him (laughs). For real, some friends and colleagues would call me KDB (laughs).
Best football team:
For me, it’s really difficult to choose between Juventus or Triestina. As a kid, my grandfather dressed me up in Juve shirts. He was a big supporter and I became one as well. But he also has a big love for Triestina of course, since it’s our hometown team. So I would choose Triestina. When I was young, I played with the team and I have had so many wonderful experiences behind the microphone.