The Fifa World Cup 2018 has been full of surprises. In order to keep Bangladeshi viewers up to date with the ups and downs of this capricious tournament, popular TV host Maria Nur has been hosting a pre-match talk show “Football Paa-Goal with Maria.” She has often been termed the top sports host in the country, even though she’s not from a sports fraternity. In an interview with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Sadia Khalid, model and TV host Maria Nur shares her thoughts on this World Cup and her show.
How long have you been hosting sports shows?
It has been four years.
In Bangladesh, we often have sports show hosts from non-sports backgrounds, unlike Harsha Bhogle, Sunil Gavaskar or other cricketers hosting cricket shows internationally. Do you think being from a different background affects the quality of the show’s content?
There are hosts from non-sports backgrounds internationally as well. Sports journalists are also often not from sports backgrounds. If I talk about myself, personally, I don’t only host sports shows. In sports shows, my role is that of a presenter, a moderator. My job is to ask questions to the analysts or to other guests at my show. They’ll answer. It is not my job to analyze. In that case, coming from a sports or non-sports background doesn’t matter. What matters is if the person is a sports fan, a sports lover. If the quality of the show would drop, then viewers wouldn’t want Maria to host sports shows. The slogan “Cricket means Maria” wouldn’t be created in Bangladesh. When I’m doing a football show, it wouldn’t also be appreciated. It’s all about an individual’s performance, how she presents herself.
Recently the Bangladesh women’s cricket team won the Asia Cup, but we still don’t see many female analysts on sports shows. Why do you think that is?
I’ve had female sports journalists on my show. There are two types of guests on my show, experts from the sports arena and celebrities. In the last semi-final match (of the Fifa World Cup 2018), I had the honourable information minister, Hasanul Haq Inu, as my guest. I’ve had female guests on my show in both categories.
In Bangladesh, gender discrimination is deeply rooted. We think girls don’t understand sports, or girls can’t talk about sports. A lot of time has passed, but we still haven’t been able to come out of that frame of mind. When we appear on the TV screen as sports hosts, we have to face a lot of criticism. I’ve also had to deal with negative comments. A lot of people say that girls host sports shows to attract viewers. But I’m working hard to make my shows stand out. That’s why people are now saying: “Cricket means Maria. Football also means Maria.” We haven’t been able to free ourselves from the conservativeness and gender discrimination.
Would you like to share any memorable comments from your World Cup show this year?
That’s a toughie. There were many notable comments. The comment we received the most this time around is: “This World Cup is full of surprises.” There’s nothing called a hot favourite here. There are no small teams among these 32, who qualified for this World Cup. The dark horses have put the so-called big teams to the test. That has made this World Cup different from others. I think that’s why people are still watching the matches even after Argentina and Brazil went home.
Which is your favourite sport- cricket or football?
Personally, because of the Bangladesh team, cricket is my favourite sport. When we grew up, the golden age of football for Bangladesh had already passed. For that reason, we watched more cricket than football. But I love watching football as well.
How often do you get to watch the games?
If Bangladesh is playing, I watch the matches no matter how busy I am. Now that Bangladesh is playing a cricket series during the football World Cup, I’m missing those matches.
Who has been your favourite player in this world cup?
There are so many. Romelu Lukaku from Belgium, Luka Modrić from Croatia. Messi is my all time favourite. Then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Mbappe. Danijel Subašić from Croatia was my favourite goalkeeper. I was a fan of the dark horses throughout the World Cup.
Who are you supporting in the final match?
I can’t say that before that final show ends. I have to stay neutral as a host.