As a longtime soccer player and fan, Northwestern University journalism student Matthew Placzek decided to see if it would be possible to land an internship covering the World Cup, which runs through mid-December in Doha, Qatar.
The Illinois-based school didn’t directly provide any opportunities to cover the monthlong event, but Placzek, a 2021 Carmel High School graduate, worked with a professor to build connections with Northwestern’s satellite campus in Qatar, and from there, FOX Sports, which is broadcasting the tournament in the U.S.
Placzek reached out to FOX Sports a week before beginning fall semester classes. A few weeks later, he learned his dream of covering the World Cup was about to come true. He’ll remain in Qatar until Dec. 24 and resume his studies at Northwestern in early January.
He answered the following questions from Current from Qatar:
What are your duties during your time in Qatar?
I started as a runner for our operations team based in the International Broadcast Centre. I ran a lot of errands, helped transport things and did a lot of random stuff here and there. I made a point of always saying “yes” to whatever they needed, and a few days ago they asked me to help one of our camera crews film the practice session and post-match presser for the U.S. Men’s National Team. I had the opportunity to ask USMNT players Matt Turner and Yunus Musah a question each at the press conference. Although rather unimportant in the grand scheme of this tournament, it was such an unreal experience to be the youngest person in the room for the type of pressers I’ve watched on TV and YouTube for years.
On Nov. 18, I was moved to the main stage FOX Sports has set up on the Corniche, the major street in Doha. I will be working as a production assistant for our World Cup Today, World Cup Live and World Cup Tonight shows. Some of my duties include printing and distributing rundowns, shot sheets and look-ahead schedules for our stage talent.
What is it like to be covering the World Cup as a journalist?
It’s impossible to describe. There are stories everywhere you look. There’s so much to talk about and it’s only amplified by the exponential increase in people coming into the country for the tournament. It’s a feeling that you can’t get in any other profession anywhere else in the world.
What are you most looking forward to during this internship experience?
I want to learn as much as I can. This tournament happens once every four years, and there is nothing else in sports that can claim to exist at the same level as the World Cup. FOX Sports has brought the best people in our industry – commentators, reporters, directors, producers, etc., – and my goal is to absorb as much as I can from them before I come back home.
One of the reasons I chose journalism is to tell the stories of people from a variety of different backgrounds. I love meeting new people and learning about different cultures, and it’s hard to beat interacting with fans from the 32 participating countries and a myriad of other nations as well.
What has been the most surprising aspect about your time in Qatar so far?
It’s difficult to describe just how different Qatar has become over the past week alone. When I first arrived, the city felt empty. (Days later), the country ballooned as teams and fans poured into Doha. There are people congregating and celebrating on the street 24/7. The general aura is so energetic, and it feels like I woke up to the beginning of a monthlong festival.
How do you balance your internship with your schoolwork?
I had to withdraw from my quarter at Northwestern before I came, so I don’t have to balance any academic work with my job responsibilities. I do have some other commitments at school that I have to make time for every week, but the majority of my focus is on my work with FOX Sports.
What are your career goals?
My dream is to work at a World Cup as a play-by-play commentator or analyst. Getting to meet all of the commentators and analysts that are here with FOX has been incredible, and I hope that one day I can join them in the booth.
Are you a soccer player and/or fan?
I started playing soccer when I was 4 years old. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel across the country and compete against incredible players at a number of different tournaments and competitions. I currently play for the Northwestern club team, which sits right below our NCAA (Division I) team. Additionally, I call the games of both our men’s and women’s D1 teams on Big Ten Plus. I have never been to the World Cup (men or women), so this experience is completely new for me.