When you are lucky enough to work as a football reporter, you come into close contact with many of the stars of the world and European game. After a match in the mixed zone you get to ask the players questions and, sometimes, even chat to them off the record; it is many fans' dream.
I also work as a VDC (Venue Data Coordinator) for UEFA, a role which allows me to get a little bit closer to events on the pitch and behind the scenes. It all starts with an access-all-areas accreditation tag, which permits me to go wherever I am needed within the confines of the stadium.
On the day before the game, the first thing I do is meet all the UEFA staff on site at the stadium. They hand out the accreditations for all the UEFA.com personnel and, if I have not been to a stadium before, they will show me around. Then it is time for the first highlight of the week – the press conferences. I write down the coaches' and players' most interesting answers and occasionally ask a question myself, before I send them to the UEFA.com editorial team.
Besides being responsible for the accreditation and internet access of our UEFA.com team on site, the main task of a VDC is the collection of data before, during, and after the match. In most UEFA competitions, the teams have to hand over their lineups 75 minutes before kick-off. When they do so, it is the VDC's duty to enter these, as well as the tactical formations, into our system as quickly as possible – after which they appear on UEFA.com and often on your television screens.
A VDC is usually seated on the commentary gantry. Not only does this provide a fine view of proceedings, it often also involves rubbing shoulders with a number of notable former players who are performing television and radio duties nearby.
During the match, we collate the game's data (goals, cards, shots on goal, etc). At the same time, our collection serves as an official statistical commentary for UEFA.com. After the match is over, we validate the key events with the referee's team. Who scored? Who was given a caution and why? Are there any incidents to be reported?
It is this time I like most during a VDC assignment as you can see the raw emotions of the players and officials right after a match. It is just great to be so close to the action despite the responsibility it brings. The best thing of all is that I now have first-hand experience of the emotion created by football, whether it be in Europe's premier club competition or at grassroots level where I coach in my spare time.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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