Meet Jermaine Egesa, Sanyuka Television’s Lead Commentator on the StarTimes UPL

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Jermaine Egesa’s voice as the lead commentator of the StarTimes Uganda Premier League on Sanyuka Television is very familiar with those that enjoy the action, drama and more of Uganda’s top-flight league.

Jermaine’s is an unmistakable voice, one that has been around football commentary for the better part of the last decade, having honed his skills on radio. Starting the 2021/22 season, he has fully ventured into television commentary, and what an impact he is leaving on many viewers across Uganda!

We sat down with him, and in this interview, he shared his life as a football commentator with us.

In the football commentary world growing up, who did you look up to, and why?
To be honest, commentary just wasn’t my thing growing up. I enjoyed the game like every other lad without really paying attention to the voices that relayed it. The first real voices I paid attention to were Clive Tyldesley and Andy Gray from the EA FIFA 06 Game. And later on, when I got into the industry, I got a lot keener on Joe Lartey, Andy Townsend, Martin Tyler, and Peter Drury.

Do you remember your first time attending a football match?
No! I am only told stories of it; I was still a little toddler, and I am told it was in Nakivubo Stadium. I am certain that it was an SC Villa game, and Edgar Watson was the Team Captain.

The one I remember well enough, I was in Mandela National Stadium on commentary duty for the National Team AFCON qualifiers against Angola – an electrifying atmosphere that’s hard to put in words or ever forget.

At what point did you get your opportunity to be a football commentator?
I was at Kyambogo University pursuing my bachelor’s degree, listening to Magic 100FM for Sports News. There was an ad for someone who could be a sports commentator on this particular day, and I thought to myself, “why not give it a shot, at least just for the kick of it?” I showed up with no demo, was given an on-spot voice test, asked to return for training, and on returning for the training, I was thrown in the deep end and told to commentate live on air… It was a Nile Basin Tournament match, and the rest is history.

How hard has your transition from commentating football to a radio audience to a TV audience been?
I am still coming to grips with the distinctions in between. With radio, you are the eyes of the listener and describe every action going on. Not so much so with TV, where you narrate along to the action witnessed. How hard? I wouldn’t say it has been hard at all, but neither would I say I have fully mastered the entire transition.

How difficult has it been to remain objective when commentating on your favourite team?
I always joke and say European football made me quite numb to the emotions attached to football clubs. But it’s quite simple for one simple guiding principle, as a commentator, I am paid to deliver a game as neutral as possible. My emotions and sentiments can come on my downtime, but not in those 90 minutes of the game, as evidenced this season when I have commentated a couple of games where my team has not been up to scratch.

What is the most memorable match that you have commentated on so far?
In Europe, I would pick the Liverpool v AC Milan Final in Istanbul. But this season’s StarTimes UPL has delivered memorable games by a truckload! I am torn between the recent Tooro United victory over Vipers SC and the Wakiso Giants home win over Mbarara City, and I still get goosebumps thinking of these games.

Tell us about the first time you realized Next Media wanted you to take on this role – how did it happen, and how did you feel?
Unreal, I mean, why me? The biggest media brand in the nation and me… A clear mismatch somewhere. But it turned out to be quite real. I was elated but also a bit intimidated to deliver at the top level and in the unfamiliar territory of TV that I had only done a handful of times.

I got the call up from Desire Derekford Mugumisa (Head of Corporate Affairs), with whom we had worked at UBC and on a freelance basis at Urban TV (as a pundit), and we hypothetically discussed terms “if this was to happen.”

The follow-up calls were not hypothetical – I was invited for a couple of voice tests and again got thrown into the deep end (😆) commentating my first ever CAF Champions League game between Express and Al Merrick.

What are the disadvantages of commentating from a studio compared to being at the actual football match?
It hardly compares, especially when it comes to delivering the right tone and atmosphere of the game. I am a sponge that soaks in the raw energy in the stadium before being able to relay it back in the same intensity or, as we say these days, vibe!

My finer storytelling build-ups are often crafted out on the pitch before the game, and I am certain the same cannot be achieved off a studio commentary – I would choose the pitch over the studio any day.

Tell us about your process; how much goes into research before doing a match?

A lot. The research never goes off. So much so that I end up reading articles on matches I commentated, which some find curious since I was the one calling the match. I always seek to arm up with as much information before the game. That goes to referring to my prior match-day notes for the teams playing, referring to the stats-pack provided by production for every game, reading written preview articles for the games normally before I leave home or hotel room if we are upcountry. I always try to get to the pitch at least 2 hours before the game, which gives me time to interact with other journalists, club officials, and the production team for any extra titbit that might come in handy. The final 30 minutes to the game are usually reserved for interaction with my co-commentator, John Vianney Nsimbe, to sync, review and internalize my match day notes, then generally power down and relax in my seat in the commentary booth awaiting my cue before we turn it up again for the 90 minutes.

What haven’t you achieved in your career thus far that you’ve always wanted to do?

I think I would want to cover an international tournament right from the pitch! Africa Cup of Nations, maybe the World Cup… One can only dream, but that is certainly one milestone I would want to achieve.

What is the most interesting fact about you that your listeners would be surprised to hear?

Off-head, I think it would come off as a surprise to many that I am a Jack of many trades. I am a professional DJ and have been practising the art for well over ten years. Still, before that, I was a performing artiste with Ndere Troupe for close to 8 years and was quite accomplished with Uganda’s traditional Art, Music and Dance. I also have been a National Debate Champion while at the university. I actually won Kyambogo University their first debating crown before the deejaying and commentary fully took my attention.

Elizabeth Tendo

Elizabeth Tendo

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