June 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
At some point, a British commentator will watch Diego Forlán play football, and not feel the need to remind the watching public that he didn’t do so well in his Manchester United career. Not tonight, sadly; Guy Mowbray and Mark Lawrenson speculated that watching United fans might not recognise him (I managed. It was the name), while Gary Lineker also felt the need to remind everyone of poor Diego’s “failure”.
Of course, nobody wants to pretend that 17 goals from 98 games in a United shirt is a good return (though the two against Liverpool have got to count for at least six each). Since then? Well, he scored an excellent 59 in three seasons at Villarreal, before netting a quite outstanding 86 in three at Atlético Madrid. And a month or so ago he scored twice to win the Europa League final. He’s been La Liga’s Pichichi twice, both times picking up the European Golden Boot as well. And he’s just turned in the performance of the World Cup so far, orchestrating a Uruguayan victory from an unfamiliar role as an out-and-out No. 10.
Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that goals scored outside the Premiership count for less. But that’s no excuse for the laziness of it, and it’s a laziness that’s pervading the British coverage of the World Cup. Alan Shearer admitted last Sunday that he knew very little about Algeria or Slovenia; in a smug sort of way, he seemed to revel in it. And Alan Hansen was happy to let us all know that watching New Zealand play Slovakia wasn’t his idea of a birthday. Well, Alan (H), there are plenty of us back here in the real world that would jump at the chance to spend our birthday working as a pundit at the World Cup. We might even do it for free. And you, Alan (S). You’ve got a job, and you’ve just informed the nation that you haven’t bothered to do any research. Would it be acceptable for a pundit in some other, less ludicrous field to admit to their audience that they were unfit for purpose? Would the Beeb have accepted it before an England match? Even without the smirk?
Now I know that one glib comment about Forlán is not in the same league as the sheer effrontery of the Beeb’s battery of asinine Alans. But I think they’re part of the same latent tendency within British football, a tendency that tends to belittle, degrade, or plain ignore anything that happens outside the four sides of a British television screen. It’s kind of understandable during the domestic season; there’s a lot of football going on closer to home, after all. But at the World Cup, we deserve better than the smug and patronising fare that we’re being served.
(And if you’re going to go on about Diego in England, at least mention this. Legend.)