Australia, Why Are We Abusing Lucy Zelic?

The SBS host has had to defend pronouncing names -- correctly -- "out of respect" for players.

A long-standing World Cup commentator has been reduced to tears on-air as she addressed the online abuse she had received for doing her job. 

SBS presenter Lucy Zelic has hosted 13 football matches in the last four days as she leads the broadcaster’s coverage, each time making a concerted effort to correctly pronounce the names of international players. 

They were high standards that began with late icon and former SBS host Les Murray.

But instead of praise the female presenter has been criticised relentlessly by viewers, calling her pronunciations "insufferable" and "annoying". 

And it was enough for her colleague Craig Foster to break from usual coverage to address the abuse on Monday night.

“As a young journalist on your second World Cup, and your first time hosting, 13 games in four or five days is really incredible,” Foster told Zelic, who is multilingual, on air.  

“What you have done here has been brilliant. It’s not only proper, it’s actually important for Australia.”

Zelic, who has spoken about almost quitting her first World Cup over the abuse she received four years ago,  fought back tears as she thanked Foster, saying his words meant a lot. 

“It means a lot to me first and foremost because of the legacy Les put in place,” she said.

“It’s also the sentiment behind it, which is that you’re not pronouncing it for anybody other than the nation that you’re covering.

“I have had Colombians write to me and say, ‘I have been living in Australia for 37 years and constantly having my name mispronounced has always been a difficulty for me.’

“You’re pronouncing it out of respect for them.”

Foster, a former Socceroo now studio analyst, said Murray’s legacy is “what (the broadcaster) is all about."

“SBS is about respecting every single culture and of course the way that you use the language is the most important way to show respect,” he said.

“That is why I’m so beyond proud to work for SBS because it has always been about servicing the minority and respecting the cultures that we have in Australia,” Zelic responded.

Beyond the critics, Zelic's commentary has been widely praised as professional, respectful and groundbreaking.

The 31-year-old said she hoped addressing the abuse would help to re-educate “a different audience.”

“Les had to fight tremendously hard for the game and for immigrants -- people like my parents who came to Australia with nothing for a better life -- who were able to establish an identity through Les, through the game and within the country,” she said.

“Now, let’s get to the football then.”