Lucy Zelic has copped a torrent of abuse.
Lucy Zelic has copped a torrent of abuse.

SBS hosts fight back tears

SBS on-air talent Craig Foster and Lucy Zelic fought back tears as they discussed the social media abuse she has endured while leading the host broadcaster's coverage of the World Cup.

Foster broke from normal discussion of the tournament on Monday night to encourage his colleague, who has been targeted by viewers who object to the way she makes a point of pronouncing names the way they would be said in the player's home country.

"I know the other day we talked about the (social media abuse suffered by Socceroos player) Robbie Kruse, and I wanted to just touch on this stuff I've seen regarding the pronunciations because I think you're doing an absolutely amazing job," Foster said.

"This issue around pronunciations, we actually spoke about it on the way over on the plane, and I was explaining to you (former SBS host) Les (Murray) was always very specific on his pronunciations for a number of reasons.

"Firstly because that's what SBS is about. SBS is about respecting every single culture and of course the way you use the language is the most important way to show respect to someone - through the name. If you can't get someone's name right it means you have no regard, you haven't done the work, you haven't tried.

"Secondly, Les also did it out of respect for the game. The game broadly and also the players who play the game was always very important to him, to say 'I'm showing respect to these players. It's not a joke when these people play. I'm in a job because of them'.

"So what you've done here has been brilliant. It's not only proper, it's actually important for Australia … Having linguistic skills and being multilingual is something you should be very proud of."

It was at this point Zelic had to really fight to hold in her emotions as she took a deep breath and looked upwards. Foster tried to lighten the mood with a playful jab of her leg but he too was clearly moved and his voice broke for a second as he continued "it adds a lot to our coverage and it's very important".

Zelic, 31, quickly regained her composure and emphasised why she is so deliberate with the way she speaks.

"It means a lot to me because of the legacy Les put in place and also the sentiment behind it, which is you're not pronouncing it for anyone other than the nation you're covering. Out of respect to them," she said.

"When I have had Colombians, for example, write to me and say 'I've been living in Australia for 37 years, constantly having my name mispronounced has always been a difficulty for me, to have it pronounced correctly is really quite touching', that is why we do what we do at SBS.

"It's always been about servicing the minority and about respecting the cultures we have in Australia."

 

Zelic wrote about her traumatic experiences hosting her first World Cup in Brazil in a piece for SBS two years ago.

"As incredible as it was for me to host 32 live matches during the tournament, it was also terrifying, horrible and short of my mother's cancer diagnosis the year before, the biggest test of my character to date," she wrote.

"With audiences that averaged well above the 500,000 range, social media users were brutal, vicious and tore me to shreds at every opportunity. 'Get the f*** off my television screen you ugly bimbo.' sniped one fellow. 'You stupid f***ing s***, what do you know about Portugal?! It's clear you only got that job because you slept with someone.' piped up another.

"At about 12am one morning right before I was due to make my way into the studio, I lay on the bathroom floor in the foetal position crying for hours because I just couldn't take it anymore. At that point, I considered calling my then Executive Producer Noel Brady to tell him that I was quitting. The only thing that saved me on that cold winter morning while I was busy wanting to dissolve into the porcelain tiles was my love for the game."

But she told news.com.au before leaving for Russia she had learned to cope. "It's not really an issue any more," she said.

"Four years ago I'd only been at SBS for a year and was inexperienced television-wise. I didn't know how to deal with criticism from strangers and members of the public but because of my love of football I had to deal with it.

"Five years later I have friends in the industry - women but also a lot of men too - it's just words on a screen now."



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