From the moment the word was put out on social media that we were going to interview, Peter Drury, the man who is considered the poet of world football, social media users in Kenya lit up pushing his name to top trends on an otherwise dull and dry newsday.
For football lovers, especially the millions of fans who follow the English Premier League, fans were jittery with joy, effusing excitedly on WhatsApp statuses, and asking if we were not actually pulling their legs.
The English football commentator pursues his job with such fervent passion and enthusiasm that sometimes his commentary has actually been sweeter than some of the goals scored. His delivery leaves one full of ecstatic and heavenly joy.
As Kenyans and the rest of the world are cooped up in city lockdowns over the Covid-19 pandemic, unable to travel, or engage in any meaningful social activities, it must have been joyous for Kenyan football fans to be reminded of that sweet, passionate and exciting voice of Peter Drury.
For K24‘s Shon Osimbo-Kasyula, an ardent sports fan and television anchor, the decision to reach out to Drury was simple. She just wanted to do something different after having interviewed many of Kenya’s great players during this Covid-19 season.
So, with hope in her heart, she took to the little mentioned social media platform LinkedIn to look for the famous Englishman. Of course, Peter has shunned the more popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, but somehow is active on the much serious LinkedIn.
This time around, Osimbo wanted to concentrate on the men behind the scenes, the people who make football interesting. Sometimes when you mention football, besides the players and coaches, it is the voices of commentators that football fans associate with some of the crowning moments of football.
Whether it is Sergio Aguero winning it for Manchester City in the 2011/2012 season in the last gasp of the match with Queen Park Rangers or Mario Gotze scoring a stunning extra-time goal to settle the 2014 World Cup Final in Germany’s favour, the sounds remain, especially those of football commentators.
In Kenya, who can forget Herbert Mwachiro or Bernard Otieno? For me, Bernard Otieno was for the longest time the only acceptable voice when Harambee Stars took to the pitch. When Bernard was picked for the World Cup, I was over the moon. That same feeling is probably universal among football fans. And for Peter Drury, going by the thousands of tweets posted by Kenyan fans, the feeling is universal.
It must have been surreal for Osimbo to learn, albeit two days after sending the message, that Drury had agreed to an interview with her on Monday, May 4. She had only five hours to prepare.
During the interview, she was nervous and literally shaking but with her experience it was easy to compose herself.
In her words, she was “beyond ecstatic talking to him.” For us following on the screen, it was surreal to see and hear from the man who has made our days in the made our days in the countless bars or homes in which we have watched football in.
But how does he make the art of football commentary seem so simple and fun? Well, his advice is simple.
“To be authentic, that is really the important thing. Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone else, don’t mimic someone else. Just be who you are. Have the humility to listen and learn from other people but have the confidence in yourself to execute the job the best way you can. Always remember people don’t tune in for the commentator but for the match.”
That simple yet profound advice notwithstanding, the man has a way with words. However, the ever so humble poet on the choice of the words and analogies he uses, while they are instinctive, he reveals that he consciously puts in the work to know more words.
“I love words and I hate hearing myself describing things the same way over and over. So, I have to look for different ways to express things…But there is no rationale, no plan. The words come rolling out of my mouth, sometimes they make sense, other times they don’t,” he admits.
Given the nature of the public job, Peter Drury says sometimes there are moments not to be so proud of when he faces criticism for something he said or for rubbing some fans the wrong. But those, he admits, are the moments that force him to self-reflect, to know that he could have done a better job.
All that said and done, whose dream is England winning the World Cup, Drury advises Kenyans to obey the government so that we can get out of this coronavirus pandemic with our lives.
Nonetheless, just like many football fans, he is still hoping that football leagues across the world can find a way of finalising their seasons by end of June.
Here is the full interview: