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Getting to Know ………..Martin Geissler

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In this first of a regular series of interviews with ex players and celebrity Hearts fans, we speak to Martin Geisler. Martin joined ITN in April 2002 and is now a well respected UK based correspondent at ITN. He’s married with two children, and is a keen supporter of HYDC.

We asked Martin …

 

When did you first start watching Hearts, and what drove you to becoming a Hearts supporter?

I started following Hearts pretty much as soon as I was old enough to go and watch football on my own. My dad is not a big sports fan so I didn’t have the chance to go along with him as a kid.

Hearts were the obvious team to follow as I grew up just a few minutes’ walk from Tynecastle. That said, some pals from Hibs supporting families were starting to go to games and asked if I wanted to join them. Looking back, I suppose it could have gone either way. A close shave, that!

 

What was your very first job?

I had a few casual jobs when I left school, I worked in a pub on Hanover Street for a while and spent a short spell working in Next on Prices Street. But the first real job on the road to journalism was at Edinburgh Zoo!

I was the assistant to the press officer for a year in 1990, very much the office junior. It was a fantastic job, I absolutely adored it. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist and relished the chance to work closely with the press.

Through that job I got some work experience at Sky News, which I eventually managed to turn into a full time position. From there I worked at Grampian TV, Tyne Tees, STV and Sky Sports before landing my dream job at ITN fifteen years ago.

I’m incredibly lucky, I love my job and the company I work for, they’ve sent me to some extraordinary places all round the world. It’s not always easy, or comfortable, but it’s rarely dull.

 

What was your first game and can you explain your experience?

My dad took me along to my first game. It was a goal-less draw against Aberdeen, it was season 1980-81 I think. Joe Harper was playing for the Dons, I sat on one of the crush barriers on the terrace at the school end and enjoyed the fruity language that was belting out all around me. I was nine, that kind of stuff was exciting.

 

What was your scariest moment in all your Business travels?

I’ve had a few close shaves on the road and I’m happy to admit I regularly feel a pang of fear when working in dangerous situations. The guys who never show signs of anxiety in a war zone are the ones you really have to worry about.

Friends and colleagues of mine have been killed covering conflict, their deaths serve as a constant reminder that the job can carry inherent risks. Complacency is probably the most dangerous enemy of all.

One memorable (and rather ridiculous) close shave, however, came on a trip to Zimbabwe a few years back. It wasn’t a war zone as such, but militia groups were wreaking havoc and foreign journalists were banned – we had snuck into the country illegally so we had to keep a low profile.

I’ll spare you the details but a series of really stupid decisions led me to be in a forest, controlled by the militia, on foot, in the middle of the night – don’t ask!

I was with a farmer who’d assured me we’d be OK, but we were ambushed by a gang of thugs. After a long, terrifying chase, in which I broke my hand and smashed up my face, we escaped, but it could have ended really badly.

It was all a bit embarrassing, and another lesson learned.

 

Where is your favourite place at Tynecastle to watch the game from?

My favourite spot in Tynecastle is the old stand. I had a season ticket there for years and I absolutely love it.

Whenever I’m there I’m overcome by an inescapable sense of the past. The people who’ve sat in that seat before me, the lives they’ve lived, and the games they’ve seen.

It’s a wonderful construction, that stand, I’ll be so sad to see it pulled down in the coming weeks but the new plans are extremely impressive – and progress is more important than nostalgia, I suppose.

 

What was the most memorable story you had to cover?

The most memorable story was a trip back to a refugee camp I visited on the border between Kenya and Somalia in 2011. Somalia has been gripped by civil war for more than two decades, but that year the harvest failed too and a brutal famine made life completely impossible. Hundreds of thousands of people poured across into a Kenyan camp called Dadaab, the biggest refugee centre in the world.

We based ourselves in the camp’s children’s hospital for a week. There were some awful scenes.

One day a mother arrived with her baby, he was eighteen months old but so emaciated he looked like a new born. The doctors told us he’d have been dead within an hour if his mother hadn’t reached the hospital. We watched as, over the course of an afternoon, they saved his life. I spent the week at his bedside and got to know the few family members he had.

I’ve seen many remarkable, emotional events on my travels but for some reason I never forgot that kid – and last year I went back to see him. Sadly he still lives in the refugee camp, but he’s happy, healthy and doing well at school. We spent an afternoon kicking a football around in the dust outside the hut he lives in with his mum. I couldn’t have been happier.

 

Favourite away ground and or away trip you can recall – and why?

I’ve been on a few extraordinary away trips with Hearts.

I watched the now legendary cup game at Glebe Park in Brechin perched on top of that famous hedge. I was in the Olympic Stadium in Munich when John Colquhoun almost sent our end into raptures in 1989 and I hitch hiked to all the way Bologna for a UEFA Cup game in 1991.

There have been some pretty rowdy adventures on the road, too. I remember all sorts of stuff being thrown at us in the old shed at Tannadice. At one game there I was hit on the head by a record!

But the best away trip was probably Bordeaux in 2003. Great city, great stadium, great Hearts support and, for once, a great result!

 

What was the most enlightening story you have covered?

I’m not sure I’d describe a single story as enlightening but I had the privilege to spend a bit of time with both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela was a truly remarkable man with a charisma that simply radiated from him, but to my mind Tutu is his equal at least. I belly laughed at many of his stories and listened in wonder to others. Time spent with those men was true enlightenment.

 

What was your most memorable Hearts game?

My most memorable Hearts game was the UEFA Cup quarter final at Tynecastle in 1989. I was in the middle of the shed when Ian Ferguson Scored that free kick, what scenes!

The game also happened to fall on my eighteenth birthday. A memorable match and some truly memorable celebrations – before, during and after!

 

If you were not a journalist, what would be your dream job?

Honestly, if I wasn’t a journalist I have no idea what I’d have done. I’m so lucky to have fallen into a career that rewards curious, belligerent, argumentative people who have issues with authority!

But I’ve always wondered, if things had been different, whether I might have had a go at acting. I was the lead in a few school plays and I loved it – it seems like a fun way to earn a living, too.

 

What does Hearts Youth Development mean to you?

Hearts Youth Development, quite simply, means the future. It’s the roots from which the club we all love must grow. Too little is made of the incredible work Hearts Youth Development are doing. I’ve seen the commitment first hand and, in some of our exciting young stars, we’re all seeing the rewards.

Hats off to all those involved and all those who’ve given their time and money to help. Long may it continue.

 

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