Simon Lowe, better known as Sid Lowe, is an English Madrid-based columnist and journalist, who has been covering Spanish football for many publications websites, television channels, radio stations and football related podcast across the world.
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Hello, I'm Sid Lowe. I'm the Spanish football correspondent for The Guardian, ESPN and World Soccer. I also for Onda Cero radio in Spain. I'm the author of Fear And Loathing in La Liga, a history of the Barcelona versus Madrid rivalry. And of Catholicism, War and the Foundation of Francoism in Spain. My twitter is @sidlowe. It's the clasico tomorrow. Ask away ...
Love you as a regular on Football Weekly. Have there been any updates on the fan fiction between you and Jimbo?
Cheers from the US!
hahahaha, no, not as far as I know ... hope not!
You're the boss of all Spanish soccer (national team and leagues), what do you change?
Kick off times in advance.
Recovery of a Cup that's a straight draw, one game, no arsing about.
More equal TV rights.
Quite a lot of presidents in jail. Or at least dumped on an island somewhere.
And do something about disastrous TV coverage ... direction of games, etc.
Games at same time. Not all of them but more of them.
Prices dropped. No games so late.
Oh look, there's a pig flying over the Bernabeu, JB...
Uncertain of the AMA time again, Sid? It's almost like you're swimming in gum.
Almost ... loved Luis Enrique's respoinse, by the way
Big fan of your work on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast.
My question for you - why does your voice sound so different when you're on the phone versus in the studio?
quality of the phone line, I suppose. Is it really THAT different?
Your report on Spain v Chile at the World Cup (here for those that haven't read it: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jun/18/spain-chile-world-cup-group-b) is one of my favourite pieces of writing this year and certainly one of the best match reports I've read.
How do you do it? How do you write something that good to be filed on the final whistle?
What do you do for preparation? Are there any particular methods/rules you follow? Any tips or tricks?
Thank you. I was lucky with that piece: I had a fascinating story to guide me: the world champions becoming the first team knocked out of the world cup. In practical terms, I was helped too. That piece was done as a runner, which means: half of it sent at half time, another chunk on 70 minutes, another chunk just before the final whistle. if the game ends 3-2 with a last minute winner, you're in trouble. But I could write (still nervously) 'knowing' that the outcome was quite likely from quite early on ... Even now, many years later, I still find match reports extremely stressful and I imagine that the people on the desk waiting for my copy feel the same way ... They probably hate me. I have tried different preparation methods but they rarely work. Certainly, pre-writing various alternatives, as was once suggested to me, never works for me ... it feels much more natural to be carried along by the story.
Do you have any funny stories from your time as a translator for Beckham/Owen?
Well ... I did make a small mistake that basically meant that Owen described Lampard as, effectively, "Well fit."
It was everywhere the next day.
one headline said: "Is Owen gay?"
the opening line of the article said: "no, but his translator might be."
What's your educational background and how did you get into football journalism?
Spanish and history degree ... Spanish history MA and PhD ... and so I suppose Spanish football was sort of natural from there.
Who are some lesser known La Liga players that we may not know about that we should keep our eyes on?
As it is a new season, in a sense I am finding that out myself as time goes on ...
Yoda, good player he is.
At Getafe he is.
But he is good.
I love watching De Marcos's energy at Athletic. Arda at Atletico.
but I guess they are not really unknowns.
Oh now Sid, we didn't need to know about your favourite positions...
Well, I thought this was an ask me ANYTHING?
Both teams are in scintillating form. Who will prevail? No tactical stuff, just gut feeling.
Thanks for doing this AMA, I’m a big fan of your work (especially your book!). I’m actually going down a similar route to you having just started my PhD in Spanish and Portuguese studies with an interest in academia and journalism as potential careers. I just wanted to ask you what it was that turned you against academia and towards sports journalism? Football is a particular passion of mine and I was wondering as well what advice you would give to a PhD student considering pursuing a career in European football journalism? Thanks!
I think it was more a natural drift that anything else ... there are times when I miss academia ... but I was never entirely sure that I wanted to stay in it. Advice is always a difficult one because everyone's path is different. My career path was an unusual one and I would normally say don't go down the same route but it sounds like you already are to some extent ... I guess then the advice is: write. Sounds banal but it's true: write, write, write ... watch football, write
Hey Sid, first of all: big fan of your work, etc. etc. I've got three questions:
Who do you think will win the clasico this weekend?
Weirdest place you've ever conducted a phone conversation with Jimbo and the Football Weekly crew?
How amazing was it to watch the Real Oviedo shareholders campaign evolve and eventually succeed? I bought a share and it's something I'm quite proud of being a part of despite having no ties to the area or the team so I can't imagine how it feels for you.
De Marcos is playing as a right back these days, how's that transition gone?
Surprisingly well ... although I'd still prefer him further up
Sid, big fan, thanks for all your la liga coverage over the years. It's your words that brought the magnificent Rayo Vallecano to my attention and I've been rooting for them ever since.
Where do you think Rayo coach Paco Jemez will end up in the summer?
Who will they get to replace him? And are they doomed to relegation next season?
Good question ... Paco Jemez should be in line for someone quite big but people do see him as a risky option ..
What do you think of Lineker's words yesterday saying that La Liga is stronger than the EPL?
I can see his point and on some levels agree ... I think it needs a careful analysis and much depends on how you judge it. Structurally, there is much wrong with the Liga, but the football tends ot be good. And Mafdid and Barcelona are monsters of course
Estrella or San Miguel or Mahou? Or do you just not give a Voll Damm?
Estrella ... sounds like Estella.
Hi Sid, thanks for doing this AMA.
Just one question, how far away do you think a move to a fairer distribution of TV money is in La Liga? I seem to remember Barcelona being in favour of this a few weeks ago. Do you think this would have an effect on the hegemony of the big two?
It should be enshrines in law ... but something is holding it up ... the interests of the bigger clubs, I suspect.
It would help other clubs compete but I don't think it will ever prevent RM and FCB being the big two.
what will a post-Messi/CR7 La Liga in, say five years time, look like? Will their respective clubs build players as iconic as them? Find players as good as them? Has that process already started?
Good question ... it's a strange thought. I'm not sure that two players have ever dominated as long as this ... certainly since Kubala/Di Stefano.
With a smaller population, why is Spain so much more prolific than England at producing world class players?
Different styles, attitudes, facilities, leagues ...
Long answer would keep us here for years but one thing I think is significant: futbol sala.
Hello Mr. Lowe,
As a press correspondent, which stadium in Spain gives you the best experience?
To work in is very different to as a fan ... basically you only really care about good wifi connection/phone line and visible TV screens to see replays etc ... you'd be surprised how few grounds fulfil those criteria. To work in, Barcelona and Madrid are probably the best. Great positions too.
What would be your best XI of a Barcelona/Madrid team from recent times?
... defensively shambolic, as I crowbar in all the attackers. hahaha!
Ok, I like this ... right, from the time I have been here ... let's think ...
Alves Hierro Roberto Carlos
Zidane Xavi Xabi Ronaldinho
Ronaldo Ronaldo Messi
That's off top of my head ...
Thanks for the AMA. 1 question for you:
1) What is the general Catalan's perception of Mourinho? Despite the animosity and insults, does the general public still consider him a great manager?
2) What is expected of Carlo Ancelotti this season? Or in other words, what must he deliver to remain in the job?
Ancelotti delivered the thing he really had to deliver which was the decima ... I think his position is stronger than it has ever been. Madrid look very, very good at the moment and there is a recognition (maybe less from the board room than elsewhere) that he is handling things superbly.
Mourinho: I think they know he's a good manager, even if they don't like him in the slightest. that said, I think many of them may feel that he is an overrated manager, not quite as good as is often made out.
Hi Mr Lowe!
I'm a big fan of your work and as an avid reader of World Soccer it brings a smile to my face when I notice you have made a contribution to it.
I was wondering what it was that made you focus your career on La Liga?
Also, what are your predictions for Saturday's El Clásico?
I suppose Spain and history is the answer to that ... even though I appreciate that that may sound simplistic. I started with Spanish history and language in terms of study, and like anyone really was a football fan. I suppose the two things came together naturally. A bit of a chance career path in the beginning
How you doing :) ?
Sid, with Barcelona's decline and Madrid's 10th Champions League do wish you'd delayed your book a few years?
Maybe ... but I wanted shot of it by then and we'd already broken a few deadlines.
More to the point, in the book I say no one other than RM and FCB will win the league in the foreseeable future ... (well, more or less I say that).
Rakitic or Kroos?
Kroos. but I like them both.
Which football journos do you look up to and admire most that are still active today?
None of them.
they're all ba5tards ...
Erm, good question. I admire lots of them. I often read pieces and can't even begin to understand how they thought to wrote it that way, how they worked it out, or how they got the material ... how their minds allowed them to see so clearly or to deal so well with the material ...
In Spain I like Lu Martin, Santi Gimenez, Juanma Trueba, Jabois, Robero Palomar, Gemma Herrero, Diego Torres, Orfeo Suarez, and loads of others ... all for different reasons ...
In England, I hate to say this but I really do like the Guardian's team ... I thought Barney had a mind blowingly good world cup.
Also: Rory Smith. Big fan.
And my partner in crime: Pete Jenson.
There's always room for a sequel, no?
Maybe a new final chapter, aye.
how long is Iker gonna be safe in his starting position at Real if he doesn't improve his performances? Is his influence at the club that big, or do the club not believe in their backup?
I'm surprised he has held on this long ... but there are signs of him, sort of, recovering ... the power issue is hard to judge. He actually has LESS support at key levels of the club than people think, not more.
Sid who in your expert opinion is the better player once and for all because I'm sick and tired of the media and blogs always comapring these players. So Sid come on: Messi, Ronaldo or Linares?
And The Doc.
Hello and thank you very much for this AMA. What are your thoughts (if any) about the current state of the Spanish NT? Does the future hold anything bright?
Yes. I think they're struggling for identity and to bring through the new generation. there's a certain degree of this being a transitional period. But there are very good players coming through and I think the future is bright ... 3 tourns in a row? no. But a strong, competitive side who can consider themselves among the favourites.
Big fan of your work, Sid! How does Simeone manage get everything out of his players at Atletico? It's amazing to me how they won the title and made the Champions League Final last year without the financial power Barcelona and Madrid have.
Also, what's happening to the Basque clubs? Everything seems to be going wrong with La Real and Athletic, yet Eibar is doing extremely well considering the circumstances they are in.
By the way, there are a lot of people who love your work on /r/soccer. There's probably a few us here already!
Force of character and personality ... also power. When he came in, he was the only person (because of personality, past, etc) who could unite the club and bring everyone under his direction ... but of course had he lost he would have lost that power too. He's very charismatic, very hard working, very obsessive, but has a nice line in humour and tongue in cheek ...
Eibar is incredible ... Athletic have had a mental block with Champions League imo. Real Sociedad: slow decline under a manager who I must admit I do not find convincing at all.
Thanks for answering.
I'll get you the UD Las Palmas mug if we make it up this year!
Ah, hang on ... I've got that one.
thanks, though. appreciated.
Hi Sid, two questions (edit: or three):
Being a pundit in Spain, what do you think are the main differences between punditry in the UK (including commentators) and those on the continent? I mainly have experience listening to Italian ones who seem a lot more technical, and less biased...especially at European level.
What was the experience like when being a translator for players? Do they have a smoke screen of what they can say, or are they aware of all the questions that will be asked beforehand?
Love your writing and books, but the next time you do an audiobook it needs to be down the phone!
edit: Any advice for someone wishing to start a European football blog?
Do you see the Spanish TV deal changing to give more money to clubs not called Barcelona or Madrid to give more parity to the league?
yes ... see above
Hi Sid, thanks for doing this!
So...How Do You Solve A Problem Like Balotelli?
You don't destroy him for swapping shirts, for a start.
After that, I'm not so sure. I think you have to work out what kind of player he is and how he fits. He is so different from Suarez that you can't expect to play in the same way (let alone be as good). So you have to play to his strengths. I must confess, I've never really thought he was that brilliant. But I also think that the scapegoating of him today is baffling.
Hi Sid, huge fan, Fear and Loathing is one of my favorite books.
What Atletico accomplished last season was nothing short of astonishing. Do you think this marks a return to a more competitive La Liga like we saw in the early 2000s, when teams like Valencia and Depor were legitimate contenders and actually won the title, or was it just an anomaly, and this season we'll return back to the same two horse race?
I was pleasantly surprised to see Atletico spend a lot of money over the summer and bring in the likes of Griezemann and Mandzukic, I expected the squad to be decimated but instead they've shown a real determination to to defend their title, or at least to continue to mount a challenge. Sevilla and Valencia are also looking pretty good so far this season, and I'm curious to see what kind of impact Peter Lim will have on the latter's long term prospects. I'd hate to see a return to La Liga of a few years ago when the 3rd place side was closer to relegation than it was to 2nd.
Also, how long do you think Ancelotti will stay at Real? I've got a gut feeling that if they don't repeat in the Champions League and lose out to Barca in the league, he'll be out. Thoughts?
I think there is a risk that because Atletico won the league too many people assume that all is ok, when structurally it is not. I think Atletico will compete up to a point and the money they spent is striking. But the balance is of course still tipped very definitely away from them. Valencia: let's see Lim's intentions. But it is hard to see beyond RM and FCB still. They still generate far, far more than anyone else can or will be able to do.
Also thoughts on the Indian Super League? Spanish players (Surprise Surprse!) are yet again tearing apart an international league. Why do you think Atletico invested in the Indian franchise Atletico de Kolkata? Can we see further investment from Spanish clubs in emerging markets like Asia and India?
I don't know enough about it but it seems like an interesting idea ... I don't know if it will later give way to a more long standing, less older-player-dependent structure. But at the moment the money is there and the intention to make it big. It could work. Would be nice if it did.
I'm not sure I know how to put a picture on here ... but my twitter pic is Estella. @sidlowe
How do you see Suarez being utilised by Barcelona this season?
Up front (slight R) with Neymar (slightly L) and Messi a bit behind.
Hey Sid, are Pipas your favorite match snack? or do you still miss Pukka Pies?
Not a pipas fan ... massive bags of sweets ... which never even last until half time. Gah.
And the food, surely?
Thoughts/prediction on the Clasico at the weekend? And also, why do you think so many British players are reluctant to move abroad (Gerrard and Real Madrid etc.)?
money, in part
Hey Sid, who do you think is going to win the Classico?
(Or maybe a draw).
I suppose Madrid are favourites ...
I once unsuccessfully attempted to help you find a Grenada CF mug for your collection. This was around the time you played match at Real Madrid's training ground with Mourinho in goal.
Did you ever manage to get that elusive Grenada mug?
How big is your collection now? (Photos please!)
Serious question: What's more likely, that Messi breaks the Liga goals record in the Clasico, or that he doesn't?
Picture of Estela for proof?
ooops, sorry, that is answered above by mistake.
How Vital was "Don Patricio" to Barcelona's survival during the Spanish civil war?
Very. Although it was more than he was part of a process than that he led it. he was the manager when they went on tour. The survival came from that, but was a proposal from outside the club. Also, survival came in the ability to keep the club from CNT-FAI hands, (anarchist union), which wasn't really down to him. It's wonderful that there is a campaign to rehabilitate his memory though and I very much hope they are successful. He's hugely important. Won the league with Betis ... only manager ever to do so.
Why do you so often make vague tweets that leave us guessing what on earth you're talking about?
Good question ... I often ask myself that ...
I guess it's my own release that means I can make a point without everyone getting it, but knowing that some people will ....
I have started to quite enjoy the enigma but I imagine it's just annoying for some people. sorry.
It's partly cowardice of course: I can effectively attack something/one but always claim that I didn't ... and at the same time know that they chances are people won't get it ... but that (the right) people will
Big fan of the Guardian Podcast. I'm in Madrid this weekend for a stag - any recommendations on bars to watch the classico?
Edit: and what are the chances of getting tickets to Getafe on the gate on Sunday? Considering venturing out there but not much idea about it.
Getafe ... you should get tickets but they may be a bit pricey.
Bars for clasico? Don't know really, as I am so rarel in bars for games ... anywhere central or near Bernabeu should be fun ... there are a fair few decent ones right by ground
Hi Sid, big fan of your work, cool to see you doing this.
What are some of your favourite football books - which ones would you recommend? Recently read Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson, which I really enjoyed.
Mentioned this up there somewhere ... I think.
A Life too Short. Wonderful.
Still haven't got to Pyramid. It's on the shelf.
Atlético fan here. What do you think of the replacements we brought in this summer?
Very good, for the most part. But they do oblige a shift in style: you can't put the ball in front of Mandzukic like you did with Costa ... I like Griezemann a lot.
Hi Sid, do you think Pique will be able to recapture his form? Is The hunger still there?
I hope so.
I also don't think his form is as bad as some people make out.
I feel he has become a bit of a scapegoat. An easy target
Massive fan of your work.
Any advice for young, aspiring football journalists who wish to cover a foreign league? How did you go about getting your break?
my pathway was a weird one, via a PhD, so not that route ...
write, write, write ... and go to the country and get as involved as you can. Never say no ... and at the same time, know that others will
Sid, why are the escalators at Atocha so bloody narrow?
Never mind the escalators, love the turtles
Sid, do you see or know much of Scotland's own Jack Harper at Real Madrid? I know you've worked closely with British players over there in the past, even if he is a bit of a difference case. We're starting to hear more about him over here and it would be good to know if the hype that is starting to build up is on solid foundations!
He is a very good player indeed. Hope he makes it. Great talent.
Sid, in your opinion, did Cesc fail at Barca or did they misuse him? Thanks!
A bit of both
favorite futbol player?
I really enjoyed fear and loathing, certain bits more than I thought I would.
Before I read I half expected to want to skip through the older historic sections up to the more modern day tales of Madrid and Barca. But in the end I think the stories around the two clubs in and around the civil war became my favorite parts.
What were your favorite sections to research and write?
thank you, appreciate that. Some friends have told me those bits were the heaviest, the hardest to engage with, but they are important.
My favourite bits: hard to say because you get satisfaction from different parts for different reasons. Meeting Argila and Di Stefano were highlights. the civil war stuff reconnected me with my historian self, which was nice. the dream team chapter was perhaps the most fluid. and finding the Di Stefano transfer document in a state archive was a real 'holy shit, I've done it' moment ... the smoking gun. Well, almost.
Thanks for doing this AMA Sid.
What is the situation at Oviedo now? Are the club still in danger of going out of business?
No. Thanks to the generosity of so many people, we're flying. People can be great sometimes. there will never be enough words to express everyone in Oviedo's gratitude.
Hi Sid, thanks for doing this AMA. Love your articles and podcast insight.
I recently read Morbo by Phil Ball and now I have a taste for quality books on Spanish football, are there any you'd recommend? (Feel free to include your own).
Well, mine of course ... hehe.
My favourites are probably Jeff King's two books.
And Graham Hunter is great on Barcelona/Spain.
If you were Rodgers would you have bought him and/or where would you sell him if you needed to?
I'm not sure I would have signed him, no.
but maybe when he is alongside Strurridge it'll work better.
Where can you sell him to ?