First thing first: naturally, this blogger cannot contain his glee at Fiorentina’s marvellous 2-0 win over Liverpoo-el in their home Champions League encounter last week; witnessing the precocious talent of young Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic come alive in front of Europe has put many, myself included, in mind of that young Viola star of two decades ago, Roberto Baggio. Long may Jovetic blossom in Firenze – and for crying out loud, do not sell him to J******s at any cost.
Anyway, we might have had incredible young footballing talent 20 years ago, but thank Christ we didn’t have the eye-gouging, ear-bleeding awfulness that is TV3’s football coverage. I won’t have a pop at the meedja’s Mr Versatile, Matt Cooper, whose presentation skills are not in doubt – even if his position as the channel’s Champions League frontman does somewhat put me in mind of the early days of Channel 5 in the UK, when they allowed horse racing’s Brough Scott to present their first live England football match, an occasion which, in turn, reminded me of one of those “In At The Deep End”-type programmes, where a bricklayer suddenly trains to be a stripper.
No, it was the utter pig-ignorance of commentator Trevor Welch and “pundit” Tony Cascarino which had me tearing lumps out of my arm rest. Research seems not to be a major part of television football coverage outside of the BBC these days; nor does the simplest preparation.
The fact that Irish TV football coverage is astonishingly partizan in favour of teams from England (and, oddly, only one team from Scotland) is quite atrocious enough in itself; but not bothering to research the opposition or even learn to correctly pronounce their players’ names displays contemptible disrespect of the sort which should simply not be allowed on air.
Did many armchair fans care whether any of the names Trevor Welch mangled last Tuesday actually existed? Possibly not – me, I sat cringing until I could take no more and turned the volume down.
Quite apart from sounding like he regularly loses his teeth during a match, Welch never appears to familiarise himself with any of the opposing side’s names, except for those who are already proven internationals, or may once have played for one of Ireland’s beloved English Premiership sides.
On Tueday night, his performance suggested he’d been handed the Fiorentina team sheet at the very last minute, and written in dyslexic Braille. Now, it’s one thing not grasping the nuances of the Italian lanuguage (for instance, pronouncing Marco Marchionni’s surname as ‘Marsh-eee-oh-knee’ instead of ‘Mark-yon-knee’ is certainly understandable), but simply rearranging the letters into something easier to say (as in club captain Dario Dainelli, whom Welch called ‘Danieli’ all night) is little short of moronic.
And that was only after the diabolical ‘punditry’ of Cascarino. With a surname like that, you’d think he might show a passing interest in Serie A – but not a bit of it. When asked by Cooper if Fiorentina would miss their Italian international striker Alberto Gilardino, his reply was that no, they wouldn’t, because he was basically useless when he was with Milan. Just to be clear about this, Gilardino relaunched his career when he transferred from Milan to Fiorentina last season, scoring 25 goals for the Viola in all competitions and, as a result of his form, being reselected for the national side.
And just to prove that this sort of wilful ignorance isn’t confined to TV3, over on Sky Sports, Liverpoo-el ‘legend’ Phil Thompson declared that Fiorentina were the Italian equivalent of West Ham. Again, let’s just look at that: Fiorentina were mired in the Calciopoli scandal at the end of season 2005-06 and were relegated to Serie B; they were reinstated on appeal but given a 15-point deduction to begin season 2006-07 as a punishment – in both these seasons, Fiorentina, under Cesare Prandelli, technically ‘qualified’ for the Champions League in (what would have been) fourth place. They have qualified for the competition both seasons since then in that fourth placed position, at the expense of Milan and Genoa respectively – does anyone remember West Ham hitting this sort of form recently?
If it wasn’t for my love of the beautiful game, I’d never watch it on TV for these very reasons. The overwhelming majority of football coverage on television is utterly dreadful – if only contracts were awarded on the basis of quality.