IWD | Ines Goda Forjan: “I try to be a professional, but also remain human.”

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IWD | Ines Goda Forjan: “I try to be a professional, but also remain human.”

As we mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we continue with the series of interviews with women in the handball world. Today’s guest is Ines Goda Forjan, a Croatian journalist who became the face of all major handball competitions for one of the most popular Croatian TV station. Her story is impressive, because she is coming from a sports family, and as she was always surrounded by sport, the only logical step was to become a sports journalist. Goda Forjan says that becoming a sports journalist was always her idea of an ideal profession. But she wasn’t always covering sports. Goda Forjan shared her journey with us, and you cannot simply pass by it. Enjoy!

You have a master’s degree in journalism, and you work in the profession. Where did the love for journalism come from?

I don’t know exactly when or where or why, but I liked the idea of quickly and accurately conveying information, following important events, reporting to the public on what I saw and heard. Journalism allows me to be a source of information, ask questions, seek answers, research. No day is the same in that business, there is a lot of excitement, teamwork, quick decision making, unexpected changes and I somehow manage best in such an environment. Already in the first grade of high school, I knew it was a job for me and I was not mistaken. I graduated from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, and the turning point in my career came in 2010 when, as a first-year student, I applied for the RTL job vacancy, appeared in my first job interview, and got a great opportunity to learn and develop on national television.

Have you always known that you want to do sports journalism? Is there anyone in your family from whom you inherited the love for sports?

Yes, I always knew I wanted to be a sports journalist. With this idea, I enrolled in my faculty. And in that plan, from the first day, television was the medium that could bring sports closer to the viewers. Sport has always been present in my family. I grew up with two brothers who trained football, a dad who is a tennis lover and a mom who successfully followed it all. At home, matches were always watched, and all major sports competitions were closely followed. From football, through skiing to Formula 1. Everything was followed. And I dreamed to be a part of it one day. There was no backup plan. The only option was television sports journalism. And I would choose the same again.

Your brother is a successful football player. Does anyone in your family play handball?

Yes, Bruno is a football player, he plays for Slaven Belupo, and my other brother, Dino, is just finishing his studies at the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb. We are all related to sports, but the two of them have always been most focused on football. But in January, of course, they are always supporting the Croatian handball team on RTL.

Did you play sports or handball yourself?

Ever since I know for myself, I have been involved in sports. I trained basketball at the Zupanja Basketball Club for years, and I also played tennis at the Zupanja Tennis Club 1881. But I enjoyed it the most when I discovered handball. Unfortunately, there was only a men’s handball club in the city, so we girls trained with a lot of enthusiasm only for school competitions. I remember that along with our professor and the coach were looking for every free time in the hall, and when it was empty it was our time for handball. I played in the right wing position and one year we narrowly missed the state competition. Those were really good times, we didn’t have much, but we enjoyed it.

In the last few years, you have become the face of all major handball competitions. How demanding is it to prepare to watch such big events, given that in society, sport is still more associated with men than women?

Of course, I am aware that in society, sport is still more associated with men than with women, but I think that is slowly changing. I never liked to divide the world into men and women. So far, I have not encountered prejudice, I have not encountered underestimation, or found myself in any awkward or unequal situation. I try and do my job the best I can, professionally and honestly. I am constantly learning and devoting a lot of time to preparing for each task. I think it is the best tool for breaking down prejudices. Regardless of the fact that I have been working as a handball pitch reporter for years, I prepare for every World and European championship as if it were my first. Every championship is a new challenge for me. My first was back in 2015, I was behind the cameras, I had my assignments on the show “Time for handball”. Since then, I have been a part of handball projects every January. The biggest challenge was to replace her colleague Marko Vargek at the 2019 IHF World Championship in front of the camera. It was a huge task that brought a great deal of responsibility. Being with the national team, conducting interviews before and after the matches, conveying first impressions to the spectators, always looking for the latest information, following every training, chasing every change and move of the professional staff … It is demanding, but my favorite are these big projects.

You have gained a lot of experience working on all the great handball events. In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working in sports journalism?

Today, information is more accessible than ever, and this puts great demand on sports journalists. The challenge is to be able to choose the most important ones from the multitude of information and present them well. Viewers today know a lot more than they once knew and that is why the criteria have grown. The audience knows a lot, the news can come without a television sports journalist, and everything we present on the television screen is easily verifiable. I think that much more is expected of journalists today than was expected before. Everything else is an advantage for me because I really enjoy this job.

Journalism in general, and sports journalism in particular, is a dynamic and somehow timeless business. How do you spend your free time when you are not at work or traveling?

Journalism as such takes away a lot, but all is well as long as there is passion, desire, and enthusiasm. Although I have been in this business for more than a decade, I have not had enough. I like to use my vacation for travel the most because that’s the best way to recharge my batteries. Seeing something new, getting to know a different culture, traditions, food, and people – it makes me happy. But over the last two years, it has become a bit challenging and complicated. I like to spend my free time with friends and family. Go to a football or handball match, watch a play in the theatre, escape to Sljeme, make a circle around Jarun – just to be on the move.

Can you single out your favourite handball memory?

My favourite handball memory is definitely the semi-final match between Croatia and Norway in Stockholm at the 2020 European Championship. It was the biggest thriller I watched live, my heart was pounding for an hour, my hands were shaking as I watched over time, and then Zeljko Musa scored for the win and the final. And in that second there was an incredible euphoria, madness, pride. People were crying, hugging, jumping, and screaming with happiness at the same time. I love the joy and togetherness that sport can bring so easily.

Apart from sports, do you have any other interests?

I am the type of person who is privately and professionally interested in anything and everything. And I really mean everything. From sports to theatre and documentaries to fashion. Before covering sports on RTL, I followed health and educational themes, reported live from concerts, did articles on energy renovation of buildings, followed elections and protests, talked to ministers, reported on the royal wedding, and welcomed footballers after returning from Russia. I went through everything, learned a lot and I don’t like to limit myself in anything.

Do you have any anecdotes from the trip that you want to share with our readers?

There are always unforeseen and unplanned situations on handball trips. Television is like that, you have to know how to manage and improvise because not everything always goes according to plan. The last such situation happened at the last European Championship in the match between Croatia and Serbia. At half time, Ivano Balic quickly moved towards the locker room instead of our position for reporting live. I literally chased him down the hallway leading to the locker room, and then we ran together to the other end of the hall and arrived at the last second to answer. As I asked him a question, I could barely catch my breath and afterward we had a good laugh at that chaos.

Is there a person from the handball world who’s had an impact on your professional career?

There are actually many, and these are the people with whom I worked the handball championships – coaches, assistant coaches, players, RTL’s professional co-commentators. I appreciate, follow, and respect the work of many and believe that I can learn something from everyone, or I have already learned. Because in journalism you never know enough, it’s never too much. It is necessary to constantly upgrade knowledge, ask questions, listen, but also work on yourself, develop your own style.

Why do you love handball?

Because it is exciting, dynamic, requires great concentration and creativity in constant tactical outwitting. Because the attack is just as interesting as defence. Because there is no saving and smuggling. Because a team has to be a team all 60 minutes.

What advice would you give to all women who have desires and ambitions to work in sports journalism?

Dream, fantasize, and never give up. And don’t let them convince you that you can’t do something. Because you can! I believe that a lot can be achieved in life, if you sincerely want it, work hard and fight. And I don’t mean that. In everything I do, I try to be professional, but also to remain human.