I know I said that the football world is getting smaller and less mysterious, but if you gain all your knowledge from TV pundits, you’d probably disagree. Judging by the pre- and post-match studio discussions, you’d think we were still in the days of grainy monochrome footage from lands we’d barely heard of.
With the exception of World’s Nicest Man (and one of its best football managers to boot) Roy Hodgson, the quality of punditry on both BBC and ITV has been piss poor. As Tom English points out in an excellent article in the Scotsman (thanks to Anton Vowl for the link), there’s no longer any excuse for such ignorance. Wikipedia can provide career statistics and essential facts about every player in this tournament; in all honesty, they’d do better even if they’d only read the football pages in the tabloids that morning.
What makes it worse is that they then try to make up for the lack of knowledge with lazy pseudo-facts. Adrian Chiles seems to respond to every surprising scoreline by comparing the populations of the two countries involved… “the 5 million people of Slovakia are beating the 60 million of Italy”. We’re not talking about Vanuatu or Grenada here. While the size of a country must have a partial bearing on its sporting prowess, it’s stupidly simplistic to use this to explain results in one sport. How, in Chiles’s system, are India, China and Indonesia doing in this World Cup?
If you’ve had the volume turned down on your TV, you might not have heard for the 371st time that Lionel Messi hasn’t scored yet in this tournament. Again, a cursory glance at easily available data would reveal that his scoring record for Argentina is nothing like his tally for Barcelona. It’s a goal every three games at best. So why have the supposed experts completely failed to understand his different style of play in international football? Similarly, they’re harping on about the SHOCK lack of goals in today’s Portugal-Brazil match. “We expected a goalfest,” says commentator Jonathan Pearce. Really? I was expecting a niggly, spiteful scrap. Brazil’s 6:2 rout in 2008 was not at all representative of past meetings between these two countries. This is bitter “auld enemy” stuff, after all.
I dunno, what’s the answer? I’d hit the “mute” button, but I hate watching football with the sound off. Can we have a Vuvuzela-only soundtrack on the red button, please?