Connecting with Greatness: Behind the scenes

Johannesburg, March 27 – It’s not very often that one gets to be made tea by England football legend Michael Owen.


Yet it was Owen who personally made tea and scones for the Thackwell & Whittaker production crew who paid him a visit to shoot SuperSport’s Fifa World Cup stories currently broadcast on the World of Champions as they build up to the 2018 showpiece event in Russia.


Owen’s tea and scones, plus a private tour through his trophy room which includes his 2001 Ballon d’Or trophy, was just reward for the crew after a challenging three months of working around the clock to secure appointments with the six football legends who make up SuperSport’s World Cup stories campaign.


The campaign, dubbed “Connect with Greatness”, has World Cup greats in Owen, Pele, Sunday Oliseh, Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha and Sir Geoff Hurst going down memory lane to iconic World Cup moments that stood out for them. Also included in the campaign is Victor Moses, still paving his path to World Cup greatness with Nigeria.

Once all six stars were confirmed and appointments were made, shooting was scheduled to take just over a month, but ended up taking three months due to issues with Pele’s health.

Pele’s shoot was schedule to take place in Moscow immediately after the World Cup finals draw in December. After making the trip to Moscow, the recording did not materialise as a frail-looking, wheelchair-bound Pele was in poor condition. A new appointment was made for London in January.


Two hours before departure Pele was admitted to hospital and would no longer be traveling to London. The crew had to wait, again.

The shoot finally took place at his home in Rio de Janeiro where he walked in using a Zimmer frame and asked everyone in the room how they liked his new boots, referring to the walking aid.

Thackwell & Whittaker account manager, Warwick Austin, who was the leader of the production crew throughout the shoots, thought he was in a dream.


“This was one of the most surreal moments in my life. When he (Pele) walked in the whole room lit up and we could feel we were in the presence of greatness,” gushed Austin.

“While everyone was a little tense, he lightened the mood by telling a joke about his English being so poor, even though he lived in the USA for three years when he played for New York Cosmos.”

From there, the shoot was a light-hearted session filled with laughter, the highlight being the seven minutes it took Pele to recite the line “Watch all 64 matches on SuperSport”.

Upon their return to South Africa, the crew would surprise Siphiwe Tshabalala, the scorer of the first goal of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with Pele’s reaction and comments to his goal before the promo was aired. Tshabalala was almost in tears with joy and wonderment that one of the game’s greatest had such kind words.

The crew soon jetted off to London for a date with Victor Moses, a man charged with spearheading Nigeria’s quest for glory in Russia in a few months. Moses, a shy and emotionally reserved player by nature, was shown the video of Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan penalty miss in 2010 which evoked a physical and emotional response from him. Moses felt for both Gyan and Luis Suarez, especially as he had become good friends with Suarez during their time together at Liverpool.


SuperSport viewers, like no one on the continent, will connect with greatness – all 64 matches will be broadcast live and in High Definition throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the adjacent islands, with insight and analysis provided by a panel of local and international footballing greats.