LONDON — The next transfer window in world football doesn’t open until June 1, but longtime NBA insider Marc Stein just made a very unique — albeit temporary — move of his own.
Through a special “one-weekend loan deal” from ESPN.com’s NBA team to ESPNFC, Stein was dispatched to London to cover Saturday’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan at historic Wembley Stadium for ESPN’s online soccer arm. Wigan’s 1-0 “Cupset” was carried live Saturday in England on ESPN UK as part of a 12-hour schedule devoted to one of the big “sports holidays” on the UK calendar.
Stein returns to his NBA Playoffs coverage this week and Front Row caught up with him to ask a few questions about this landmark assignment, which enabled the lifelong City fan to see the Blues in-person in a major final for the first time.
How much soccer have you covered?
I always say that I was born to cover the NBA, but I’ve done a decent amount of football for a guy who’s been working the pro hoops beat full time for the past 20 seasons. I covered the U.S. National Team extensively for the Orange County Register while still attending Cal State Fullerton and also covered both the 1994 World Cup (L.A. Daily News) and the men’s and women’s Olympic soccer teams at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney (Dallas Morning News). And since June 2011, I’ve had the honor and privilege of co-hosting a weekly soccer radio show (“Soccer Today”) on ESPN Dallas.
What specifically did this weekend’s “loan deal” entail?
I was at Wembley for more than 12 hours Saturday soaking up the pre- and post-match atmosphere behind the scenes in addition to tracking every kick of the match while chatting live for the full 90-plus minutes in ESPNFC’s “The Boot Room”. Then I went back to my hotel to put together a full online diary of the experience that I assembled with the help of ESPNFC editor James Martin and fellow ESPNFC staffer James Tyler that can be found here. Former Scotland international Craig Burley and I also did some post-match video for SportsCenter back in the States.
You’re known as a huge City fan, so how hard was it to watch the heavy favorites suffer such a disappointing defeat in person?
I was honestly so busy covering the match that I’m still not sure that the result has sunk in yet. I approached this trip in a 100 percent working capacity. I go to England [as a fan] pretty much every September before the NBA season to watch as many soccer games as I can, but making the trip over this time of year can only be described as surreal. There was so much going on before, during and after the match that it was pretty natural to lose myself, so to speak, in all the reporting, chatting, writing, interviewing, picture-taking, etc.
Going to the Bernabeu on mine and the club’s first-ever visit with 4,000 City fans in September, watching City take the lead twice and ultimately losing a 3-2 heartbreaker to Real Madrid was a crushing defeat that’s still with me. This experience was completely different and undeniably memorable — just with me being at Wembley for my first time since the renovation — irrespective of what happened on the pitch.
See Stein and Burley’s report.