GolTV’s Juan Arango is livin’ the dream. A native of New Jersey with roots in Colombia, the Miami-based broadcaster/writer/producer/translater has the experience and enthusiasm to bridge the gap between European football and its counterpart in the Western Hemisphere with passion and knowledge. In part 1 of our exclusive interview, Arango, who has also lived in Colombia and Buenos Aires, shares his thoughts on the Bundesliga and the German NT going into the 2012 Euros.
The multi-talented Arango is currently employed by GolTV as an on-air personality, doing game commentary as well as hosting “La Liga 360” and “Oh My Gol.” Growing up watching “Soccer Made in Germany,” along with watching and listening to Tony Tirado doing the game of the week on the SIN/Univision network, formed the foundation of his appreciation of the beautiful game wherever it was played. His love for the game grew when he attended an Atletico Nacional match while living in Colombia as a child, and blossomed to fruition while in Buenos Aires studying at the Universidad de Belgrano.
Juan has worked at ESPN and has shared his expertise on the beautiful game for such sites as In Bed with Maradona, EPL Talk, Serie A Weekly, World Football Daily and Goal.com. Besides doing play by play and. color commentary for matches aired on GolTV, he is currently a contributor to Yorkshire Radio and has in the past covered minor league baseball, college and high school sports. He is also a contributing author, along with Jorge Zuazola and Elisa Uranga of the recent book “Ballfoot v Football: Leadership lessons from the Spanish Champions: The success of the tiqui-taca,” available on amazon.com. His worth ethic is amazing, proving once again that in the footballing world that to live the dream, one has to work hard, respect those that came before and help the new kids on the block. We thank him for taking time out of his busy work schedule (I don’t think the man sleeps at all) and family life to share some of his thoughts with Bundesliga Fanatic readers. For all you rugby fans out there, Juan is also very passionate about that sport as well.
Fanatic: Like many American soccer fans, you grew up watching Soccer Made in Germany as a youngster. What players and memories do you retain from those days?
Juan: Whoo…you are kinda dating me a bit….but uh, yes I am that old. I have always believed, and have expressed to many colleagues here in the U.S. that “Soccer Made in Germany” was one of the shows that really began to blaze a new trail in the soccer environment in this country. That, plus all the soccer programming from SIN/Univision. The Bundesliga was one of the leagues I used to watch when PBS would air it on Saturdays (if memory serves me correctly).
I remember when Hamburger SV were kings of the hill. They were fresh off their European Cup win over Juventus. I recall watching that team, with Felix Magath and Horst Hrubesch, face off against Bayern Munich with Karl-Heinz Rumminegge, one of my childhood idols. He was just one of the most dominant players at that time and he (alongside Toni Schumacher) were the players that got me hooked on the Bundesliga. I have always remembered the Globe Kicker segment and hoped to be featured there one day…well that story….we’ll leave for another time.
Fanatic: You’ve seen a great deal of football over the years, and covered many domestic leagues in both Europe and the Americas. How does the current form of the Bundesliga stack up compared to the other big leagues in the world?
Juan: Right now the Bundesliga is the most competitive league in Europe. Of course, when you mention the Bundesliga to the casual fan, the first team that will pop up is Bayern Munich. That being said, a club as big as Bayern has not won the title every year. We’ve seen Dortmund, Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and even Werder Bremen. This season, we’re seeing two teams that struggled last year fight for the top spot. Schalke struggled mightily under Felix Magath only to turn their form around and finish the season strong.
The job that Lucien Favre has done at Borussia Monchengladbach has opened eyes. More importantly, it’s put a team with such a proud history as Die Fohlen back in places where they belong.
The best way to compare teams in other leagues is to see how they are doing in international competition. While only Bayern and Leverkusen advanced to the Champions League knockout stage this year, three Italian teams (Inter, Milan and Napoli). This trend in German football has to change. At the same time, clubs in Germany have to remain loyal to the business model in place. While Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and even Inter are spending money they don’t have and continue to accrue astronomical debt, more and more German sides are in the black if you look at the Bundesliga’s annual report. Of course, anyone can build a team with half a billion quid.
Fanatic: Is there a particular Bundesliga team that you admire?
Juan: Hmmm…I really don’t have one.
The level of play in German football brings you in, but it’s the fans that make you love the league as a whole. I can tell you one thing — Bundesliga fans are among the best around. I have a trip to Signal Iduna Park or St. Pauli’s Millentor higher on my football “bucket list” than going to the Camp Nou or the Santiago Bernabéu. The two most exciting football experiences — and this is just my opinion — would be at Dortmund or Napoli. The fans of those clubs give it a flavor that very few in Europe can equal. But Gelsenkirchen or Hamburg would also be phenomenal places to watch a match. Of course Kaiserslautern has a certain atmosphere that just makes you want to be there.
Fanatic: Given that Spain and Germany are both favored to do well in this summer’s Euro tournament, how do you contrast the Spanish NT/Barca tiki-taka style with that employed by Jogi Löw with the German NT?
Juan: Spain’s tiki-taka style is just incredible to watch, even though at times they get too ‘artsy’ and look for the perfect shot. Germany is just more culturally direct, which reflects in their football. This Germany team has already felt what it feels like to be teased. I also think that this German side has a great mix of youth and maturity. In this summer’s Euro, Germany will be a contender but will also be one of the youngest sides.
One can truly say that this is the first tournament that Spain plays where all the proverbial darts are aimed at them — the bullseye. They were the favorites in the 2010 World Cup, but the presence of Brazil deflected some of that pressure away from them.
This is all a tribute to what Jogi Löw had been able to accomplish. More than Klinsmann, Low was the true architect of this new era in German football. He was the one that made Germany the squad they were in 2006, and now has laid the path for what it can be for the next decade.
Right now the only team that can beat Spain is….Spain, although Cesar Prandelli’s Italy as well as the Germans and the Dutch are not far behind.
We will see what the true effects of El Classico will be during Euro 2012 as the media in that country are really doing their best to destroy what took so much hard work to develop. Also remember that several members of the Spanish team are now going on four years without a significant break. Let’s see how Spain come into the tournament from a health standpoint.
Part 2 of our interview with writer/broadcaster Juan Arango will appear next week. We will discuss the success of Gladbach defender Dante, the reasons high-profile Brazilian players are now returning to play their club football in their native country and the excitement and challenges inherent in the Copa Libertadores club tournament. Juan will also talk about two of the most important days in his life. You can follow Juan on twitter @JuanG_Arango.