This week’s Varsity Cup alumni is Sasha Martinengo, one of my favourite people in the world. We had a great chat I thought I’ll share the results.
He once thought he’d be a businessman and save the world from inflation… Ok, not really, but Sasha Martinengo’s reality is definitely a kaleidoscope of interests from music, to rugby, to motorsport (and everything relating to sport in between).
It is, however, a destiny that is nothing like he originally envisaged…
Initially, his involvement with sport appeared to come to an abrupt end, with a possible tennis career crushed by a knee injury, followed by a stint in the army.
From there, he enrolled at Wits Technikon – now the University of Johannesburg – with every intention of becoming a businessman. Upon registration, however, he discovered that his chosen course had been cancelled and, instead, found himself in a Marketing Management class.
At the same time, finding his love for tennis far from tamed, he juggled coaching and classes, until a burgeoning attachment to music and radio began surpassing all. And so, with an incomplete qualification, outmatched by a complete commitment to his passion for music, Martinengo left UJ and worked for BMG (now owned by Sony Music) in the Public Relations department, followed by a period at Virgin Records, all the while knocking on as many radio doors as possible.
A door in the form of national broadcaster Radio 5 widely opened, when a certain Mr Alex Jay, the then host of the afternoon show, was sick. After listening to his stand-in, this former UJ student realised he could do better.
“I listened to him and said to myself, ‘If that guy can do it, so can I’,” he told varsitycup.co.za.
Martinengo struck gold in what was then a small industry where, “unfortunately at the time someone had to die or be deported to take their place”.
“Luckily enough someone did (get deported) and I got my chance (that is),” continued this jock who confesses to having recorded a mini radio show at the tender age of 13 years.
(The year he got his chance was in 1994, and after just 45 minutes of training, Martinengo became an intrinsic part of what is now 5FM.)
Martinengo’s appreciation of sport is indeed diverse. As a rugby fan, this well sought-after MC and voiceover artist followed the Varsity Cup tournament closely this year and is proud of the successful campaign enjoyed by his former university.
Although he didn’t see any live games, he praised the importance of the competition: “Rugby is part of our culture and competitions like this are a fundamental part of that culture. This is where our future Boks are, the future of South African rugby depends on competitions of this nature.”
Although Martinengo is a great supporter of South African rugby, and despite his Italian heritage, his other team of choice is surprisingly France.
“I am a Bok first and foremost, but I support the Bulls and France,” said Sasha.
“People expect me to support Italy, but France plays an enterprising, skilful game that is incredible to watch,” he explained, adding his love of rugby to his myriad of sporting interests.
Not shy and known for sharing many of his interests on air, especially his love of motorsport, and in particular his unwavering passion of the Ferrari Formula One team, F1 Sasha (as he is worldly-known) admitted that his lust for cars began at a young age, highly influenced by his Italian heritage and father.
He said: “My dad, who didn’t even like cars or the sport, used to get invites to Kyalami and he would take me with him. I was a kid who didn’t like school too much, so I found myself learning about cars instead.”
This passion has translated into a television career, too.
The F1 man has been with SuperSport since 2002, as the anchor of the popular Formula One Magazine Show, as well as anchoring all F1 GP’s during the season.
In fact, when we caught up with him he was packing for the recently-held British Grand Prix. F1 is definitely Martinengo’s true love; the former marketing student insisting that even if his business career had taken off, he’d still be working within F1, somehow.
Catch Martinengo on 5FM weekdays from 9am to 12pm and on SuperSport’s Formula One Magazine show. And follow his ventures on Twitter – @F1Sasha
By Kate Nokwe
This article is a product of Varsity Cup