Many soccer fans all over the world can only dream of attending a World Cup competition. For Honduran-born Ana Jurka, it was a longtime dream come true to cover it as a sports journalist for Spanish-language media giant Telemundo.
Jurka took a break from covering the games, smack dab in the middle of Red Square in Russia, to talk to Latina.com about the hottest games, players, and moments thus far. She also shares her picks for the final two teams and who she thinks will be back for more when the World Cup heads to Qatar in 2022.
We're loving your coverage from the World Cup! When did you know you wanted to cover sports professionally?
I started my career in sports television in Honduras. I was the co-host of an auto racing show and I covered entertainment before moving to the U.S. Prior to joining Telemundo Deportes at the network level, I did the sports segment for Telenoticias Orlando.
I was given the opportunity to report on news and entertainment for some time in Orlando, but when I was invited back to sports, I didn’t think twice! I enjoyed doing entertainment, but for me, the sports world is much more passionate; it’s less superficial and the stories are very real. The stories of athletes that sacrifice it all for the chance to succeed; there’s no such thing as an overnight star in the world of sports – stardom requires great effort, dedication, and sacrifice. You don’t win an Olympic medal at the competition, you win it over four years.
With this being your first time covering the World Cup, how did you feel when you found out this would be your assignment?
When I was given the news, I couldn’t believe it. In fact, it wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I truly believed it. This World Cup is the biggest most important event ever for the network. It’s a historic moment for all of us at Telemundo, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Being a World Cup rookie, covering the tournament seemed like a distant dream, but here I am today.
I’m providing the game around the game for the entire tournament around every single match. I also get to do my show, 'Titutales y Mas,' from here and I’ve had the opportunity to support news and digital.
With your native Honduras not having representation on the field, who were you cheering for?
Too soon! Don’t remind me of that… I’m still not over the fact that Honduras and the U.S. did not qualify. I’ve been focused on fully enjoying all of the teams. I was rooting for several Latin-American teams. Peru was up there – a team that waited 36 years to return to the World Cup stage. Colombia and Falcao’s revenge having suffered an injury in 2014 was a storyline I watched closely.
I also wanted Argentina to do well as it could be Messi’s last World Cup. And, of course, I hoped to see Mexico finally reach a fifth game, and they had the talent to do so. But I also want to see a triumphant England – the best league in the world, in my opinion. And I can’t help but to cheer for France – they are young but demonstrate an attitude of a veteran and the hunger of the bench.
Speaking of Peru, I was so proud of how they performed as a team. Do you think they have a chance to qualify again in the future?
We at Telemundo felt so proud and enamored with the Peruvian journey to the World Cup, and how else could we better represent the Peruvian team if not with one of the biggest soccer legends we know – Teofilo Cubillas. Despite the losses, Peru was a key team. Personally, I loved Peru’s performance and I believe they deserved so much more! I would have loved to see Paolo Guerrero from the start.
The road ahead will be difficult for Peru, there's no doubt. But if they continue to be ambitious and play like they did this time around, they could achieve really big things.
What Latino players have stood out for you during this competition?
Memo Ochoa was eliminated in the round of 16, we are starting the semifinals and he is still the best goalkeeper so far. El Chucky Lozano doesn’t only score and assist but also defends like a veteran. Falcao never stopped fighting for the honor of his country. Yerry Mina, a defender who scores decisive goals will always stand out. And you can’t ignore Neymar and Willian from Brazil.
Who do you think can make it all the way to the end?
I would love to see France against England. I love the French kids; they are so young but full of ambition; they are quick and move the ball with finesse; they play beautifully. And England, like I mentioned before, has the best league in the world, they have so much history! They are the ones who invented this beautiful game and right now they have great players that can go all the way to the final.
I would love to see Harry Kane getting the attention he deserves.
It's been so incredible watching you in action covering the World Cup. Do you have any advice for anyone considering sports journalism as a career?
To not be afraid. When I first started out, I was full of nerves and insecurities. I was scared to say what I was thinking, especially when my opinion was different than that of my colleagues. One day my husband gave me this advice, "Have confidence in your God-given talent. Be yourself, do your best, and leave the rest to God." And that's what I've done since then.
My young career has taken off, and I'm proudly taking bigger steps each day. Since my motto is, “Do your best and let God do the rest, I believe that with God, hard work and working to the best of my ability every time, Telemundo will continue to give me opportunities to do even bigger things.
Photo via Instagram @AnaJurka