Football Commentator & Columnist
Stade de France: Martin Tyler shares his memories of commentating in France
Memories of Ronaldo and the 1998 World Cup final plus using A-Level French at Euro 2016
Last Updated: 19/05/20 1:27pm
At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we have asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of clubs around the world.
This week, Sky Sports' Voice of Football is looking at some grounds across Europe. Today, he takes us on a trip to the Stade de France in Paris...
Keep an eye on The Football Show on Sky Sports News and @SkySportsPL for some special Tyler's Teasers from Martin.
How I travel there
As with the Parc Des Princes, the Eurostar is a great way to get to assignments in Paris. I find it much easier to do preparatory work on the train. The ground is in St Denis, north of the French capital, so a good knowledge of the Metro and local trains is very helpful.
What it's like to commentate there
Like all the big grounds, distance from the pitch can be a problem. The usual television positions are on the dressing-room side of the ground but for England's game there in 2000 we at Sky were put on the opposite side and it seemed marginally closer. I had a clear view of Michael Owen's late equaliser.
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Did you know?
The stadium was built for the 1998 World Cup and hosted nine games, including the opening match and the final.
My memories of the ground
The World Cup in 1998 was a triumph for France. They became the first host nation to become world champions for 20 years and no country has triumphed on home soil since then.
For FIFA it must have been the perfect final, the hosts against the holders Brazil. I was lucky to be in the Stade de France on that very special day. The French commentators legendary in their own land, Thierry Roland and Jean-Michel Larque, turned up for work in the full France playing kit. To be fair to Larque he had won 14 caps for France in the early 1970s. Would I have done that if England had beaten Croatia in Moscow? Sadly I will never know.
Roland and Larque were not too far away from my position in the stadium when the teamsheets arrived and shockwaves started to pass through the media area. In the Brazil line-up there was no place for their star striker Ronaldo who had scored four goals in the tournament, plus a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out victory over the Netherlands and set up another three.
Immediately I tried to find to the Brazilian commentators for more information to this shock omission, but others had got there first and I could not get anywhere near their position. I cannot imagine any World Cup final before or since has had such a reaction of incredulity to the announcement of the line-ups.
I was working for SBS Australia and my co-commentator, the former Socceroo Johnnie Warren, was rushed on the air by the producers to pass on the extraordinary news to the viewers Down Under.
What went on in the Brazil dressing room at that time is hard to ascertain, but suddenly a second teamsheet was issued with Ronaldo in the line-up. I grabbed a copy and rushed up to our commentary position, interrupting Johnnie in full flow and effectively reversed the story. Ronaldo was now going to play. The two printed pages must be collectors' items now, like postage stamps that have been withdrawn and then recirculated.
It transpired that Ronaldo had been taken ill on the eve of the game, a convulsive fit in some reports. Mario Zagalo, the coach who was steeped in World Cup success, must have had second thoughts right at the last or been persuaded by overtures from Ronaldo himself.
The gamble did not pay off. In between two goals from Zinedine Zidane, both headers unusually, Ronaldo had a chance to equalise but could not take it.
Brazil were not themselves and were finished off by a goal with its origins at Arsenal, Manu Petit put through by Patrick Vieira. Ronaldo, who already had a winners' medal from 1994, would bounce back four years later, scoring both goals in the 2002 final, and winning the Golden Boot.
What I like about this ground
It evokes one very personal memory. A long time ago I passed A-Level French, but in my school days the emphasis was on reading and grammar. Consequently I have never spoken the language with much confidence.
At Euro 2016 I was based in Paris with an entirely French crew except for Alan Smith, who is a bit of a linguist. There was no hiding place, so by the time of the final at the Stade de France I realised that for the first time in my life I was actually thinking in French.
It was a Eureka moment... and it did not last long!