Saturday, June 26, 2010

today : 4-6-6-6-4 vs 4-4-2

It might be my mood, but the World Cup so far has been a bit odd.

One thing I have noticed is that none of the teams are really unfamiliar. The globalisation of football has led to blanket coverage. There are now hardly any surprises in terms of players who are brilliant but you've never heard of them, or surprise teams from obscure parts of the world. This is mainly because there are no obscure parts of the world any more.

I heard Tim Vickery - the South American specialist pundit make an interesting point. Globalisation has concentrated all the top talent in the world in a few mainly European clubs. When the World Cup comes along that situation is reversed. The players take all their Champions League and top division experience back with them to their national teams. All the top players play against each other regularly, so there are less opportunities to spring a surprise.

This extends to the spectators. I could name most of players of each Champions League team, as well as the major players from many other European teams (which means pretty much all the major players from whatever country). In the past Samuel Eto'o, for example, would be the star player in Cameroon and would only be heard of when the WC came around. Now we know him as a top world star who plays for Inter. The much wider coverage of world football means that I have seen many of the players playing. And if I, an interested but not obsessive footie watcher, have seen them, then the coaches and players of the actual World Cup teams must be extremely familiar with their opposition.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that the first round matches were relatively even and defensive. Nobody wants to lose, and there are few shocks.

I also think the coverage has been rather flat. I put this down to the fact that there has been a gradual change in presentation over the years. It's a long time since 'fantasy football' began the fad for fan-led programming. Whilst Sky came up with Soccer AM, the BBC stuck with the old rather po-faced style for years. Super-nerd Mottie on commentary, blandness personified Lineker in the studio. This started to change when Adrian Chiles took over MOTD2. Chiles's everybloke persona was coupled with a healthy dose of light comedy which actually made MOTD2 a much better watch than Gary Lineker's predictable and smug punning and Alan Hansen's caricature po-faced analysis. Chiles's pundits included the dry Lee Dixon and the ebullient and likeable Robbie Savage.

But come the World Cup and it all reverts to type. Chiles went off to ITV and took his banterish blokey-jokey style with him. So what we are left with on the Beeb is Lineker, who has never displayed much in terms of personality, and Shearer, who has relaxed down the years but whose comedic high-point still remains inserting Phil Collins song titles into interviews in 1998.

Which leaves us in an odd bind. For the first time in years ITV has some of the most engaging coverage, even though Chiles is hamstrung by the ITV pundit team - the uninteresting Andy Townsend, the deeply uninteresting Jim Beglin and (until he was sacked) the even less interesting Robbie Earle, as well as the dull as ditchwater commentary team of Clive Tyldesley, Jim Rosenthal et al.

ITV still has the problem they always had - adverts. The sheer amount of time taken up by them is reaching critical mass. Adverts, sponsorship jingles and phone in competitions cram all available space and break everything up too much.

Which leaves the way open for the increasingly accomplished, modern and relevant Colin Murray. Wisely ditching his Radio 1 career with the tiresome and annoying Edith Bowman, Murray cut his sporting teeth presenting on 5 live.,and doing second-rate European games on Channel 5. His Friday night show on Five Live is an entertaining blend of fan punditry, banter, silliness, obsessive and sincere interest in football and in depth analysis; helped immeasurably by having the daft but likeable Perry Groves and the properly intelligent Pat Nevin on the team. Murray looks increasingly like the future - who knew?

Murray and Chiles are, notably, both professional broadcasters who moved into doing football, rather than professional footballers who moved into broadcasting.

Another interesting feature of this years World Cup is the coverage of South Africa. Now, without being an expert, I am guessing that South Africa is a hugely diverse, complex and fascinating place. But the feeling I get is that, because the broadcasters feel they have to show 'the other side', then they have ignored stuff like musical culture and the white people. Basically, what happens is a curious mix of football highlights and poverty porn. It's as if all the broadcasters feel a responsibility to be 'responsible'. So in between people discussing 4-2-4 as opposed to 4-3-2-1 or 5-4-1 we have an endless stream of AIDS orphans and indefatigable women carrying water on their heads. The apogee of this was Alan Shearer reporting from the townships where Alan pretty much went around some townships posing the incisive question "So, what's it like to be poor?" to various residents who had no idea who he was. Of course, there were shots of him kicking a football on a dusty street with some undernourished kids in Chelsea shirts.

Curiously: no shots of him handing out cash.

No comments:

Post a Comment