Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beyond The End Of Your Nose

Don't get me wrong, I love watching Champions League football.

Having been brought up in an era when the only football on TV was highlights of the top division on Match Of The Day or The Big Match plus the occasional England game on Sportsnight, I love the fact I can now pick which game I want to watch on any particular match day.

If I'm going to make the effort to watch however, would it kill those getting handsomely paid to commentate or provide analysis on games to put some effort into learning about the teams they're going to be telling me about?

Everyone (some more than most, naming no names Chris Kamara and Paul Merson) occasionally falls over a difficult to pronounce foreign name. It's a high profile job, you're doing a lot of talking and sometimes, your tongue and brain appear to be on different wavelengths.

Repeatedly getting it wrong though, simply because you've not put the effort into finding out how to say it properly in the first place, is just lazy.

That's not what irks me the most however. That particular title is reserved for the assumption (particularly among Sky's commentators and pundits) that any team which does not play in the Premier League or La Liga (coincidentally leagues that feature heavily in Sky's sporting portfolio) is somehow automatically inferior and a plucky underdog.

I watched last night's Ajax-Man City game open mouthed in large parts, primarily at the tone set by Martin Tyler's commentary. I appreciate that City are a team expensively assembled from across the globe. I also appreciate that Ajax play their domestic football in a league with much less money, and are reliant on their legendary youth system to provide them with a stream of players they can sell on at a profit.

Yet for probably 75 minutes of the game, despite Ajax looking the much better and more confident side in possession, the tone of both Tyler and Gary Neville was one of patronising praise for them at least having a go at mixing it with their illustrious opposition. All City needed to do it seemed was put their mind to it, and their perceived superior strength, size and technical ability would overrun the noble efforts of the home side, surely?

In the same group yesterday, Borussia Dortmund beat Real Madrid. This was described in Sky's summary post-game as being the "shock of the night", presumably on the basis that those who work for Sky get to see a lot of Madrid through their La Liga coverage, and next to sod all of BVB given the Bundesliga is on rival broadcaster ESPN.

Dortmund, it may surprise them to learn, have won the Bundesliga for the last two seasons. Last season, they complete the league and DFB-Pokal double. In a traditionally strong footballing nation such as Germany, this is no small beer. In doing so, they broke the Bundesliga record for the most points in a season. Their team is littered with internationals.

That they beat Real Madrid, at home, by the odd goal out of three, shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. At least not to anyone with even the most vague knowledge of European football.

Still, to give the top sides in German, Dutch or other European leagues their due might just threaten Sky's frequently insecure boasts that the Premier League is "the best league in the world", and we can't be having that now, can we?

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