I have a tiny request that I would like to make this week to the commentators working on the various Japanese television channels, terrestrial and satellite, that cover international and overseas football.
While perhaps still lagging behind the bewildering array of offerings available in the UK, Japanese football coverage is now sufficiently comprehensive that, either side of the national team’s bore draw in South Africa on Saturday, I was able to feast my eyes on both New Zealand versus Bahrain and England against Brazil. Had I sufficient energy/insomnia, I could have then sat up until six a.m. watching Vicente del Bosque’s Spain add Argentina to their list of recent victims in Madrid. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as is the smattering of Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga options that nicely complement my J. and Premier League viewing each Saturday (which, unlike back home, is unaffected by rules prohibiting the transmission of three o’clock kick-offs). However, while I appreciate that it would doubtless be impossible for broadcasters to procure the funds, human resources, and probably even press passes to send a full commentary team to every single live match in person, I do wish they’d at least try not to make their detachment from the heart of the action so bleeding obvious.
It has reached the point where I’ve set my TV to switch to the secondary audio feed whenever there’s one available, whether I understand the host broadcaster’s language or not. My grasp of Italian, for example, may extend no further than ‘campionato di calcio italiano’ (for which I have Saturday mornings on Channel 4 back in my secondary school years to thank), but getting up to watch Manchester United’s trip to Internazionale back in February was all the more entertaining for the pair of excitable commentators from SKY Italia. Their insights were entirely lost on me but the enthusiasm they conveyed from inside the bowels of the San Siro was not; while over on the main feed, their counterparts in some studio in Tokyo offered little in the way of style or substance to shake the impression that it was just two blokes chatting idly away on the sofa. Which, unless your names happen to be Gary and Tony, is generally only interesting to the ones forging the ass grooves.
Normally, the satellite channel WOWOW stands out amongst all the Japanese broadcasters for their excellent coverage of Spanish football, but sadly, it seems not even they are unfamiliar with the correlation between distance and ignorance. On Saturday evening, the lead commentator was most surprised to see Wayne Rooney first out of the dressing room with the captain’s armband (news he could have learned well in advance either here, here, here, or if he preferred a source in Japanese, here), and the game was well and truly up by the time the players of England and Brazil formed two lines either side of the centre circle, heads solemnly bowed, a few moments later. If it was poor form not to recognise immediately that ‘oh, it must be a minute’s silence’, it was worse that the commentators should continue discussing who the gesture might be for after the referee’s whistle had hushed (almost) everyone else.
Guys, we all have days where we haven’t really prepared. I understand that not being there in the flesh makes both inspiration and up-to-the-moment information that bit harder to come by. I even accept that, in the heat of live television, our brains may not immediately make the connection between the mourning footballers in front of us and the tragic suicide of the German goalkeeper Robert Enke that had dominated the world’s sports press for the previous four days. But, for God’s sake, please at least try and engage the viewer by making it look like you know what you’re doing. Even if you do have to blag it.