In the latest addition of a series of questions to Irish football journalists about working abroad, John Kenny shares his experiences of dining with Communist Party officials, feeling the tension in a Croatia-Yugoslavia derby, and a trip to forget in Switzerland.
Travel Bug by John Kenny (RTE)
Can you remember your first working trip overseas?
It was the European Long-Course Swimming Championships in Bonn, which was then the capital of West Germany, in 1989, where Gary O’Toole won silver in the men’s 200metres breaststroke.
Did you learn anything in particular from that trip?
The phone didn’t work so well and the Irish Amateur Swimming Association were in some very murky waters – if you excuse the pun.
Favourite place that you have visited on a work trip?
It was actually to London for the 2012 Olympics. But going to the Caribbean in 2007 for the Cricket World Cup, where I got to visit four different countries comes a close second.
Have you visited any country during a particularly turbulent period?
I was in Croatia just after the War ended as they played Yugoslavia in a World Cup qualifier. Tense was the word.
Best result a team has achieved on your travels?
It has to be in 2007 when the Ireland Cricket team beat Pakistan in Sabina Park on St Patrick’s Day – that was a particularly memorable one.
Any cities or countries that you still want to visit?
Brazil for the 2014 World Cup would be top of the list, followed by Australia for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
What is the best hotel you have stayed in?
Probably in Bonn back in 1989, not because I remember too much of the hotel itself, but it was just the excitement of it all that still makes it stick out.
And what about the worst?
Hotel Athena in Athens when I was there for the European Swimming Championships. It was budget at its best with no air conditioning in 40 degrees of heat.
What is the best meal you’ve had on your travels?
I would have to say at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in a select club run for the Communist Party officials. Strangely enough, it was run by an Irishman.
Should we even ask about the worst?
Tunisia in 1993 – big mistake!
Any nightmare trips?
The 8 Nations Swim meet in Chiaso, Switzerland in 1989. There were no facilities at all and a friend of mine fell and was badly injured. It’s not a very happy memory and the world’s worst hangover certainly didn’t help.
What are the three must-need items when working abroad?
Accreditation, backup from home, and a working internet connection – be it at the hotel or the venue itself.
Best advice you could give to a new journalist going away?
Be bold. It’s a lot tougher now with over-the-top security everywhere, but make sure be firm but polite.