How England’s Kelly Smith became one of the faces of the World Cup in the US

first_imgThe others are studio host Kate Abdo, who is also English, and color commentator Aly Wagner, a former US international who on 15 June became the first woman to call a men’s World Cup match on American television.“It’s a massive, massive job, and I am so honored that they put their trust in me,” Smith said. “Fox has a very high level of excellence, and to be the only female [studio commentator] speaks volumes to what Fox is all about. They’re paving the way for me.”Smith lives in London and is not sure what broadcasting assignments she will get after the World Cup. But she is determined to pursue a living as a soccer analyst – “They call them pundits in England,” she said with a laugh.England’s run to the semi-finals in Russia has been an unexpected bonus for Smith, who has received extra air time at the Fox studio because of her knowledge of her national team.A video went viral of her spontaneous off-camera celebration with fellow England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright, who also played professionally for Arsenal and internationally for England, after Dele Alli’s goal essentially clinched their team’s place in the semi-finals.“There were no expectations for the young English side,” Smith said, speaking before their loss to Croatia on Wednesday. “There was hope they got out of their group, but you didn’t really know what would happen after that. A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon. It’s fantastic for an England native.”She acknowledged, however, that many fans of other countries are watching Fox’s coverage, saying of England, “You want them to do well, but you have to control that.” Share on Twitter World Cup 2018 Topics Women’s football Read more Two decades before Kelly Smith became a studio analyst on Fox’s World Cup coverage, she was a star on the pitch at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. But as fearless and prolific as she was on the pitch, she was terrified of live microphones.Smith had arrived in 1997 from England to become the Big East Conference’s newcomer and offensive player of the year. So she was invited to a post-season conference banquet to accept her awards and, perhaps, say a word or two to the audience.“She was gone,” says Betty Ann Kempf Townsley, who was the Seton Hall head coach at the time and had recruited Smith. “I said to the girls, ‘Where’s Kelly?’ She was in the bathroom, plastered against a wall.“She said, ‘I cannot go up and speak in front of people,’ so I had to talk for her. We’d have people from all over coming into talk to her, like ESPN, with the big-time lights and all, and she would just sit there and not know what to say.”Smith, now 39, went on to have a magnificent college and professional career in both the United States and the United Kingdom, scoring a record 46 goals for England in 117 international matches before she announced her retirement as a player in January 2017.At Seton Hall, she had also long overcome her fear of public speaking. Through the last 16, Fox and Fox Sports One averaged 2.54 million viewers per World Cup show – a lot more people than the crowd at the Big East soccer banquet 21 years ago.“I finished my playing career wanting to stay involved with soccer in the media,” Smith told the Guardian this week in a telephone interview from Russia. Share on Facebook Ian Wright (@IanWright0)Yes! @England Yes! @kelly_smith10 🦁🦁🦁❤️❤️❤️ 7, 2018 Share on Messenger Reuse this content Kelly Smith working as a pundit during the 2017 Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: The FA/Rex/Shutterstock US sports Share on Pinterestcenter_img World Cup England women’s football team interviews Pinterest Smith has made a gradual transition to broadcasting after her retirement from the international game in 2014 (she carried on playing for Arsenal until last year). Her first TV job was at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, won by the United States. She did well enough for Fox to ask her back to be one of three women featured on their broadcasts from Russia 2018. Share on WhatsApp Facebook Share on LinkedIn Farewell to Kelly Smith, England and Arsenal’s ‘once in a lifetime’ forward Twitter Share via Email Smith played in her first international for England when she was 17, then scored 76 goals in just 51 career matches at Seton Hall, leading to the retirement of her No6 jersey. But she later overcame several challenges as a player, including serious leg injuries and a dependence on alcohol. She was still shy, but she’d begun talking to friends and coaches like Kempf Townsley about the possibility of becoming not a coach, but a broadcaster.When Kempf Townsley contacted her late in 2014 to arrange a trip to one of England’s games at the upcoming Women’s World Cup, Smith told her that she’d retired from international football and was joining the Fox broadcast team instead.“I turned on the TV the first day of the World Cup and Kelly is on,” Kempf Townsley said. “I walk in there and start laughing. She could not speak in front of people, and here she is, speaking in front of millions of people every day.”Kempf Townsley is not exactly an impartial observer, but she said Smith is good at breaking down the action and is simple to understand. When Smith played at Seton Hall, Kempf Townsley said she never had to explain much about tactics to Smith. She was a natural.last_img