Female Sports Presenter, TRACY CHAPELE-UGO
Talk of a female sport presenter and match day commentator who is fast carving a niche for herself in the Nigerian sports industry and the name, Tracy Chapele-Ugo known by many sports enthusiasts as Chief Suo Chapele easily comes to mind. She is a sports analyst and commentator everyone is talking about right now. The energetic and highly creative, young lady is currently making waves. She runs her commentary in a very different style, using her powerful voice to narrate activities on the field of play. Her techniques of storytelling stands out as one of Africa’s finest female sports commentators running football, basketball and athletics in pidgin. She is exceptionally good and does her commentaries with class and great skills. Her brand of match day analysis and commentary brings lots of humour which makes games more entertaining and fun to the audience. She is fun to listen to. She has succeeded in winning the heart of many sports lovers into wanting to listen to her commentaries. She has mastered the art so well and she is gradually stamping her feet in the industry as a reference point in sports commentary. Chapele now runs her football commentary on the popular Super Sports Cable TV watched across African continents and other parts of the world. She covers live matches from top leagues in Europe such as the English Premier League, La Liga, and Sierra A. She has also run football commentaries at notable International competitions such as African Women Nations Cup, African Nations Cup, and World Cup. She was live in Qatar where she displayed her highly sensational pidgin commentary to the admiration of many of the World Cup audience across the globe. She has indeed stepped up her game, gradually becoming big and well known across the world for what she does.
Few weeks ago, City People reporter, JAMIU ABUBAKAR (08085185886) met Chief Suo, a slim, tall and beautiful sports journalist, at the unveiling of a grassroots football tournament in Lagos and got her into conversion where she spoke at length on how she found her herself as a sports analyst and commentator, how her upbringing among her 11 brothers helped her develop interest in sports and things she does to keep improving on craft. Below are excerpts from the interview which you would find interesting and motivating. Read and enjoy!
Let’s meet you
My name is Chief Suo Chapele. I’m the “Morning Show” host on Wazobia FM. I’m the first female to do pidgin commentary for super sports and I do pidgin commentary for football, basketball in Africa. I’m trying my best to be a regular responsible Nigerian and African.
How did running sports commentary in Pidgin English start for you?
It was just time and chance. And then the spirit of seeing the opportunity and going for it. I started doing sports simply because there was an opportunity. My son’s first birthday was coming and I needed a job. The media were not taking me in as a regular journalist. An opportunity came, I took it in sports. I went for the interview, the queue for the pidgin was shorter than the one for English. And it was my son’s first birthday, so I jumped into the pidgin one. So when other opportunities came, I got bored with where I was at the time which is an inspiration. Honestly, there wasn’t much difference in the pay at that time. I was just bored and needed a new project. There was an opportunity waiting for me in Football Republic, the first pidgin commentary team put together by WAZOBIA FM. It was just 2 streets away from Ligali Ayorinde. That was Etim Iyang in VI. I crossed over and I didn’t look back. Opportunities came again with Super Sports and thankfully, I took every chance. And people took me on, put me under their wings, gave me more opportunities to thrive and I keep improving. Before you know, I ran commentary in the African Women Cup of Nations, African Cup of Nations, World Cup, Premier League, La Liga, Sierra A, FIBA, Athletics. Every other day, I’m your regular Premier League and Serie A commentator.
How did you take your first shot in sports journalism and how easy was it for you to settle in running sports commentary in pidgin?
It was cool. My first degree was in English and Literature. Generally, football is storytelling. And because of the way I got into sports, I didn’t know that it was smart. My father had about 11 sons, so I had eleven brothers. Having conversations around sports growing up was a thing. We would choose our areas of interest in sports such as Golf, Tennis, Football and so on. During weekends, my dad used to use sports to spread us out. By the time we came back, everybody was talking about something they were doing. I swim, I cycle and I do different stuff. But when I realized that not all women interested in sports get the opportunity, it’s a natural conversation for me. I didn’t realize that it was just my upbringing that was bringing me up for something different.
What football show and commentary would you say gave you the big break?
I would always go with my first and that was in English. I was a Commentator alongside Ralph Chidozie George. That was for TV. I believe that was the one that was a game changer. There was an opportunity with Mr. Tola Badikali. Then, he was still in Super Sports and I told him that I was interested in the Aisha Buhari Cup which was a women invitational tournament. And you know, men don’t usually flow well in women’s sports. So, he said okay, come in, let’s try this. You’ve been doing it in pidgin. You have a degree in English, you can communicate pretty well and you can balance the 2 languages well. So, they gave me the chance. And throughout between Emmanuel Etim and Ralph Chidozie George, I was able to fill out the game; know when to come in and that was the one. There was a part of the tournament where I wasn’t the one who did the commentary and I think the people that were listening felt some type of way. I was getting dragged on Twitter. I have to start explaining to them that I was the one who made that commentary. Then I had to show them the game whose commentary I did. It was then I started realising how big it was. But the biggest platform was at the World Cup in Qatar. I had covered the World Cup before in different varieties. But this World Cup in Qatar, I had a lot of Nigerians reaching out from Kenya, sending me gifts. I have Nigerians reaching out even from Canada. You know because they were listening. At least the small snippets that they managed to get because it was not on Showmax. They made me realize that Language brings people together. Sports bring people together but sports in indigenous language draws you closer. By the time everything ended, we realized that more women watched the world cup because of the pidgin commentary. It has stayed on because they said it was funny and that it had a bit of humour. And so, the humour, the pidgin, the game just made and the rest is history.
How did you get to develop yourself to become so good in the act of running commentary in Pidgin?
You learn from people; you learn from Google and you just understand that you need to be very sensitive about where you are. This is supposed to teach you something; good, bad or ugly. Most times, I have just been the product of grace. I’m not always good at it but the one I’m good at is up-skilling and having mentors that listen to me and that kind of refines my craft. Mentors in different things; storytelling, mastery of the game strategy and what not. Players, ex-players, coaches, ex-goal keepers listen to my commentary. They listen and they always give me feedback. And I think basically it’s just because of my attitude which shows I’m always ready to listen and learn. I have conversations with them and they tell me what I need to get better. Though it’s not everything you take but what I take, I let it sit in. I think that’s part of what helped me to go faster in it.
What’s your word for young female talents out there who are interested in running sports commentary like you do?
Keep at it. I need more of us to do it. We have 250 million pidgin speakers or more people that can be reached. That’s money that’s unbanked and untapped. All the entertainment platforms are now broadcasting in local parlance; Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and what not. Honestly, I look forward to the day that I would listen to Urhobo Pidgin, Edo Commentary or whatever. I know that it would make people connect with the game even better. When they connect with the game, they are more vested. When they are more vested, then it means the ecosystem thrives. It means kids in school can make money from being a content creator and make money from it and expression of the games whether it’s football, whether it’s basketball or whether it’s athletics. They see reasons to be storytellers. It’s just how we refine it. For a kid, just open your mind, check the content streams that you have. The more people you watch that inspire you would kind of refine your craft and tell you what to do, what’s working and what’s not working. Get feedback not just from your family and friends, you know strangers are good. Know that not every feedback is bad. And it’s not every feedback you take too. It’s just to keep it level headed.
Is there anything you are doing right now to create a platform for the young and up-coming ones to learn from you?
There’s an education gap, information gap. I’m lucky and blessed to be able to bridge between the print media, what people call the traditional media and the new media, digital media. One thing I know is there are people that want to do this commentary thing, there are people that want to do analysis which I do as well or present, host and what not. Short form, long form or documentaries. I’m in the business of compiling a starter pack for kids on holiday. And they can assess 6 hours’ worth of content. I’m partnering with some of my friends in the media who are gurus at this and let them just drop the bit; videos, short form they can actually listen to in podcast form. So it’s not the biggest but at least it helps you start and it helps you know what you are doing good and what you are not, pointing you to some materials that can work, places you should be and ecosystem that you should follow, and association that you should be in. You have to be in the right association to legitimise what you do. So, this stands you out from others and makes you a respectable media person. There is respect in what we do. You owe the people the ability to be a professional. So, you need to be trained. And if you are trained already you need more training to school yourself. So that’s what I’m working on. And wherever you are across the world, you can run, it’s the same principles irrespective of the platforms or the local dialect you decide to use. Whether in Yoruba, Igbo, Urhobo, Isoko, the principle is the same for storytelling. It eases that gap. You don’t need a godfather or Godmother in the first place. You get straight to your audience in the first place, you find your voice, you find your craft and you take it from there. Everybody needs a head’s up. You don’t actually need to hold the person; you just need to get access to the material. So that’s where we are.