A passion for sports
By Jessie Hui
Good language skills and a passion for sports are the most important qualities needed to become a successful sports commentator, according to experts in the field.
A group of Hong Kong commentators have moved to Singapore, where they are working for the regional network ESPN STAR Sports.
'One must possess good language skills and know how to express oneself verbally,' said Peter Cheung Pei-tak, a regular NBA commentator who has covered more than 1,000 games over the past decade.
'Doing commentary is different from acting. You can only use your voice and words to describe the action on the screen.'
Veteran soccer commentator Peter Wong Hing-kwai agrees.
'We have to do our own research before each programme and most of the information is in English,' said Wong, who used to manage former Hong Kong First Division football team, Eastern.
'During a live broadcast, we need to listen to the original English commentary or interviews and interpret them into Cantonese.
'Of course, one must also have a passion for sports and a good knowledge of various sports. At ESPN, we are assigned to commentate on sports other than our main ones.'
Wong's co-commentator, Simon Kong Chung-tak, said: 'A commentator must be careful with his language. Keeping up with current affairs also helps.'
ESPN's plans to strengthen broadcasts in Hong Kong will create more opportunities for newcomers to enter the field.
'We organised a nationwide contest called 'Dream Job' in India to find new anchors. We received more than 40,000 applications and the winner is now working with us here in Singapore on a one-year contract,' said Huw Bevan, ESPN's senior vice-president of production. 'We may organise a similar one in Hong Kong as we will need new talent to strengthen our broadcasts there.'
Local network Cable TV has hosted three talent contests for soccer commentators since 1996. Past finalists, such as Lee Wing-kei, Lau Shun-man, Chan Wai-yu, Cypress Fong Pak-kiu and Ryson Ho Pak-lam, are familiar faces for Cable viewers.
'We offered 12 weeks of intensive training for the 20 finalists in our last contest three years ago. We also wanted them to have special skills, such as singing or dancing,' said a Cable TV spokesperson.
'We want our commentators to be all-rounders who can present entertaining shows.
'Although we don't organise talent contests regularly for the normal soccer channels, we are constantly recruiting commentators for the soccer betting channel.'
People may think commentators have an easy life as they are on TV only for a few hours a day or even once or twice a week.
But, in reality, they have to work irregular hours, even on weekends.
'That's why I say one must love sports to do this job,' said Wong.
'Never complain about the working hours and always look on the bright side - we have a bit more free time than other people.'
Being a sports commentator also opens doors to other career opportunities.
'To me, commentating is not a lifelong career,' said Matthew Mui Chi-fai, another NBA commentator on ESPN.
'A commentator is always a commentator. But the fame you gain from the job will create other opportunities.
'When I feel I've done enough commentating, I will look for other options related to sports.'