Wednesday 18 October 2017

'I felt I was simply doing my job' - Journalist opens up on heated confrontation with Ilie Nastase

Laureus World Sports Academy member Ilie Nastase is interviewed prior to the 2016 Laureus World Sports Awards at Messe Berlin on April 18, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images for Laureus)
Laureus World Sports Academy member Ilie Nastase is interviewed prior to the 2016 Laureus World Sports Awards at Messe Berlin on April 18, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images for Laureus)

Eleanor Crooks

When I arrived in Constanta I did not expect Great Britain's Fed Cup tie against Romania to be particularly headline grabbing and I certainly did not anticipate becoming part of the story.

I realised that the British media's reporting of the comments Ilie Nastase made at Friday's press conference would probably not have gone down well.

I genuinely believe Nastase does not understand why what he said was unacceptable, although that is certainly not to excuse it.

He clearly came to the press room on Saturday morning looking to confront the British media, and I just happened to be the only visiting journalist there.

Fortunately he stayed a good distance away from me, and there were plenty of Romanian reporters present, so I did not find it threatening while he jabbed his finger towards me and repeatedly called me stupid.

I tried to stay calm and explain that I had simply been doing my job and the issue we and plenty of other people had with the comment he made and his behaviour.

He left after two or three minutes and I thought that would be that until what I anticipated to be an inflammatory press conference at the end of the day.

But Nastase, a volatile man at the best of times and clearly on edge, then totally lost it on court, using horrible foul language towards officials, Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta.

He confronted another British journalist as he was being escorted off the premises and I, along with several Romanian film crews, followed him.

As soon as he saw me I could see how angry he was and I was very grateful for the security men around him, who held him back as he moved aggressively towards me.

But I felt I was simply doing my job and told him this, earning a final volley of foul-mouthed abuse before he was led away.

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