Unprofessional Foul


February 4, 2010

Interview: Lara Baldesarra Knows Her Soccer

FSR's newest co-anchor.

It’s been a while since UF has had an interview, but today we have one, and a good one at that. Fox Soccer Report’s newest anchor, Lara Baldesarra, was kind enough to indulge us and answer a few questions. After reading through her answers, one thing is clear: Lara knows her soccer.

After the jump, find out what her FSR co-anchors do for hazing, which clubs she supports, and her unknown connection to UF.

Since you have just started at Fox Soccer Report, tell us about your broadcasting background.  How did you first get involved in broadcasting?

I grew-up with a very athletic and sports-oriented family, so games and sports shows were always on the TV and radio.  I didn’t always want to be in broadcasting though. I think I actually wanted to be the first, female wide receiver in the NFL and to play for the Oakland Raiders. But, since that didn’t exactly pan-out for me, I turned my focus to the next best thing which was sports broadcasting.

After I graduated from the University of Toronto with my Specialist in Urban and Economic Geography, I turned my focus completely to sports journalism and broadcasting with post-grad studies.  I hosted my own sports radio show for a while.  And then I did a lot of color commentary, hosting, anchoring, and interviewing work on Rogers TV, but it was basically a dream come true when I got to be the commentator and analyst for the Canadian Soccer League, because soccer is the sport that I love, have loved, and will love forever.  I also spent a lot of time with TSN working with the show Off the Record with Michael Landsberg.  It was an amazing experience for me because I not only got to work on a fantastic sports show, but I also had the chance to learn from Michael who is one of the best hosts and interviewers in the world.

As the newest person on the show, do you have to do the unenviable tasks for the program?  Is there hazing in the broadcast world?  If so, what do they make you do?  I noticed that you were assigned the highlights from the Algeria-Egypt match in the African Cup of Nations.  Those names don’t quite roll off the tongue in English.

It`s tough trying to move between every nationality with proper pronunciation, especially when it`s happening within seconds!  I`m Italian and I speak a fair bit of Spanish so my natural inclination is to pronounce names with that mindset… those Algerian and Egyptian names can get awfully tricky!

I wouldn’t say there`s been “hazing.”  I mean not unless you would consider being blindfolded and shoved in the coat closet for 6 hours before your first show, hazing….   Just kidding, that didn’t actually happen!  Or did it……? [Ed. Note: I think the coat closet is where ESPN keeps its game announcers.]

What is your favorite part of your job?  Least favorite?

My favorite part is definitely delivering soccer news to people who have not heard the news yet.  To be the one who gets to inform viewers on their favorite teams and players is really neat. Unless of course it`s bad news… that`s never fun.

Least favorite part is having to watch and re-watch and script and edit and talk about my favorite team after they’ve lost.  No one wants to rehash their team’s bad game!

Have you always been into sports?  Did you play any sports growing up or currently?

Sports have always been a huge part of my life.  I played every sport under the sun growing up, but soccer was always my number one sport.  I played keeper on a very competitive team for a long, long time.  My brother, Paul, is the true athlete of the family though.  He played top tier soccer and was an amazing striker!  Now he’s a phenomenal golfer, and me and him hit the links together… when he’s in the mood to put on his coaching hat, that is.

Do you have a favorite soccer club and/or player?  If so, why that team/player?

People always give me flack for this… but I support both Chelsea and AC Milan.  [Ed. note: Rightfully so.] The fact is they haven’t played each other in real competition in over 10 years, so I’ve been pretty lucky so far.  I supported Chelsea way before the Abramovich days.  Gianfranco Zola was one of my favorites, along with Gianluca Vialli, the great player-coach.  When it comes to the Rossonieri, my love affair with them began when my favorite player Alessandro Nesta made his move there from Lazio.  I am such a fan of Nesta that I indeed switched teams because of him.  Yes, it’s like blasphemy, I know!  But, Lazio will always hold that special place in my heart.

You had to move to Winnipeg from Toronto to join the show.  How has the transition gone?

I miss home, but Winnipeg is slowly becoming my new home.  I’ve finally moved out of the hotel I’d been living in, which is great!  But my gosh… people weren’t lying about the cold and wind.  It`s freezing here!

If you aren’t working on the show, what are you doing?

Watching soccer!! Ha!  Other than that you can find me out-and-about doing all sorts of things.  I try to get to as many concerts and sporting events as I can.  I also spend a lot of time with my dog working on tricks and agility training!

Your co-host Terri Leigh is an avid curler and apparently she sings in a rock band sometimes.  Any chance you’ll be joining her on the stage?  Or on the ice?

Well I am a highly competitive Rock Band and Guitar Hero player, but I`ll leave the real rock’n’roll to Terri!  Curling, on the other hand, I’ve always wanted to try…. “Hurry!  Hard!”  Ha!  Why not?

When we interviewed Terri Leigh she didn’t have a Wikipedia page and now she does.  What would you want your page to say?

I love my pizza with lots of anchovies, but not cooked onto the pizza, put on afterwards.

UF's Foul Up banner.

What is the most memorable sporting event you have attended in person?

Well, I told you before that it had been over 10 years since Chelsea and Milan played each other in “real” competition, but they did play an exhibition game against each other in July of 2009 that I managed to attend!  I traveled all the way to Baltimore to see them play at M&T Bank Stadium, and yes, I know it was just an exhibition game, but it was awesome.  It was also the most gut-wrenching experience, because I felt so torn between my two favorite teams.  Both teams played about 60 minutes of great soccer and it was such a thrill.  Chelsea won 2 -1.  Seedorf scored for Milan and Drogba and Zhirkov for Chelsea.

Sticker Patrol!

[Ed. Note: We were there. The UF Foul Up. We even had this banner. And stickers! I hope she didn’t run into the late Bigus Dickus and E-Town Hooligan’s little boy who were the chief sticker culprits.]

Who is going to win the World Cup?

Italia!! Italia!!  Forza Azzurri!!

Greatest player ever: Pele or Maradona?

Oh my!  The never ending debate!  Both were obviously amazing players, but in my mind it’s Pele and I’ll tell you why.  Pele had the great ability to wait, and that’s what I think is his defining feature.  He didn’t rush his passing or hurry his play.  He could wait.  Everyone remembers Carlos Alberto’s 1970 World Cup goal, but for me the defining moment in the play that set-up the goal was Pele’s patience on the ball before passing it off.  It was perfect.

But, in my mind you can`t talk about the “greatest player” without mentioning Gianni Rivera, who also had the patience in his play and would explode with genius.  Silvio Piola, the goal scoring machine, who would score from every area of the field. Or Paolo Rossi, with his perfect timing!  I could go on forever… there are so many players that I think go unrecognized in the “greatest player” talk.  I love watching old, black and white match film to see all the genius that came before it`s time and redefined soccer.

Greatest Canadian comic?

FSR’s Derek Taylor, ha!  He`s hilarious.  But, other than him I’ve got to go with my fellow Toronto Maple Leafs fan Mike Myers…. Yeaaahhh Baaaabbbbyyy!

UF would like to thank Lara for playing along with our little game. We will be watching, like we always do. It’s what soccer addicts like us do.

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