the mixed zone, this merciless universe – Liberation

Doha in the eyes of “Libé”

2022 World Cup in Qatarcase

For the 2022 World Cup, our special correspondents tell the inside story of this particular competition. Now, behind the scenes of this funny place where journalists come to chat with players after matches.

Arriving in the mixed zone after World Cup matches means stepping into a foreign universe. A new world for me, who is often more used to the stands than the maze of stadiums. For the uninitiated, the said mixed zone is a kind of long corridor located under the stands where journalists hang out while the players show off after the matches. Everyone is obliged to go through it, it is not necessary to answer the questions. To ensure that journalists do not leave empty-handed, Fifa nevertheless obliges the selections to make at least three football players available immediately after the meeting under penalty of fine. An obligation that is not always respected.

In the almost exclusive size of the microcosm in which women seem to be excluded, everything is, as for the players on the field, a story of placement. You have to wait for the footballers to arrive and stick together to get a few snippets of what everyone has to say. A bad positioning and it guarantees that I will be blocked by a wall of journalists armed with a smartphone or recorder. On the contrary, succeeding in slipping into the middle of the pack gives the impression of being a fixture in the middle of a fight: it pushes on all sides, shoulder to shoulder, all accompanied by hints of sweat and coffee breath.

Various fortunes

All this to hear people say in Dutch, German or Portuguese “everything is not perfect” but that “Winning is important”. All after sometimes endless waiting. But who knows, whether a short sentence or a long review is going down, you have to be there to hear it. So like everyone else, I drive and reach for my phone in dictaphone mode. On the other hand, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ask: priority first of all for journalists who follow daily selections, then for big mouths. Two categories to which I do not belong.

From one choice to another, we know in the mixed zone of different fates. Despite Ronaldo’s engagement – ​​contrary to Manchester United, which he completely left at the start of the World Cup – I was surprised to see a good portion of the Portuguese workforce taking the time to answer journalists’ questions as soon as the end the game against Ghana. . As much as I appreciate the accessibility of the Canadians or the Senegalese, available despite their defeats in their respective first meetings – their more modest celebrity is probably at play. On the contrary, it is difficult to scratch the slightest quote from the Argentines. They only stay to the minimum: two minutes is the most that Messi offers after the failure against Saudi Arabia in the opening (after an hour and a half waiting), the rest of his teammates pass in a file, bowed, as if they were being led to the slaughterhouse. Then a fifty-four second hand watch (I checked) for one of his teammates after the game against Mexico.

“Now journalists want pictures!”

In the mixed zone, I also meet “journalists” who show up not to scrape up some reaction for an article but to be proud of having seen their idols up close. Some return the jersey of the selections back that they tried to get autographed when a player passes. Others ask for selfies or videos. For ethics, we will come back.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who was bombarded with requests for photos after the Seleçao’s inaugural victory against Ghana, even launched a little disillusioned with his team’s press officer: “Now journalists don’t ask questions, they want pictures!” After a short week of competition, a panel also appeared in the basement of all the stadiums: “No pictures, no videos, no selfies.” Without succeeding in discouraging the reporter-fanatics who keep brandishing their smartphones the moment FIFA officials turn their heads.

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