E:60’s first World Cup edition features Messi, Pele, Dempsey profiles, Qatar investigation


Tonight’s E:60 (8 ET, ESPN) dedicates an entire show to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, including a rare interview with Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, a profile of soccer legend Pelé, and a look at U.S. Men’s National Team captain Clint Dempsey. There also will be an investigative piece looking into preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (see trailer above).

Coordinating producer Michael Baltierra shares his insights on mounting “E:60″‘s first World Cup special …

On this show’s main challenges: These are some of the biggest names in the world – Pele, Messi – in a World Cup year. The demands on their time are incredible, so finding a window for them to spend time took a great deal of planning.

On determining the most compelling content: One of the hallmarks of our show is that we tell stories that appeal to everyone – those who follow sports and those who do not. So when we started planning this special a year ago, we kept the same philosophy in mind. The personalities and topics we chose are appealing across all audiences.

On format change: Overall, this is very much still an “E:60” show – a combination of powerful storytelling, journalism and visuals…One element that we changed was to have Jeremy Schaap introduce all the features rather than rely on our reporter/producer discussions. We felt that by doing so, we gave the viewer a visual cue that this show was indeed a bit different. In addition, Jeremy is one of the main personalities of ESPN’s World Cup coverage.

Observers estimate that under current conditions, by 2022 more than 4,000 workers will die in the effort to build Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure. Front Row spoke with E:60 reporter Jeremy Schaap and producer Beein Gim about their piece premiering tonight:

What was the catalyst to take on this specific issue?
JS: This was a story I was made aware of by my friend Minky Worden, who is a senior official at Human Rights Watch. Of course, when she told me that Qatar, perhaps the richest country in the world, would be employing hundreds of thousands of laborers from south Asia to make the World Cup there possible, and that they were being treated like chattel, I knew it was a story we wanted to tell. There are layers here. There is Qatar, there is FIFA, there is the western world turning a blind eye to the abuses in this small country that punches far above its weight.

BG: Jeremy and I have been discussing this story since the fall of 2012. We naturally gravitate towards human rights stories, so this issue seemed like something for us to tackle.

Do you think this piece will have any significant impact on FIFA or the Qatari government?
JS: We aren’t the only entity that has been critical of Qatar’s treatment of its foreign laborers. We hope that our story will put more pressure on the Qataris, and FIFA, to improve the lot of these workers. It can be done. There’s no reason why it isn’t being done. Qatar has the money and FIFA has the leverage, but without a vigilant press, nothing would change.

BG: We are hoping this story has impact. This has been the most challenging story I’ve ever done in my career, but if it could help affect even a small amount of change, it will be worth it.

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