In the inglorious pantheon of football goalkeeping mistakes, Rob Green’s mistake ranks pretty highly. His elementary butter-fingered clanger against the USA in England’s first game of the World Cup sits at the top table of cock-ups, alongside David James’ blunder in Euro 2004, an event I saw in Valencia with Spanish commentary. The commentator babbled on in his incomprehensible foreign language, before shouting “Calamity James!” leaving a gaggle of British tourists passing out on the floor through laughter.
We are now one week into the World Cup and everything that usually happens to destroy our confidence has occurred. Our first game against the USA, which should have been a comfortable victory, ended in a 1-1 draw after Green’s howler. Cue delighted scenes across the pond as all four soccer fans cheered their side to a draw. The New York Post’s front-page headline, “America wins 1-1”, summed up the match better than two hours of stifled discussion with Adrian Chiles ever could.
The most frustrating feature of this World Cup has been the presenting. ITV HD viewers completely missed England’s sole goal, as an advert played instead of the match. ITV bosses blamed the incident on French technicians, which is as good a reason as any.
ITV’s coverage has been poor. The standard of punditry could be improved by asking all four members of the Scissor Sisters what they think about Dunga’s new 4-3-3 formation. At least the BBC sticks with familiarity, choosing Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker to front their coverage. New Zealand against Slovakia was without doubt the lowlight so far, but at least the pundits didn’t make out like it was the greatest sporting moment in history like Sky does in the Premier League.
Sky solely own the rights to the Premier League, so they have a vested interest in bigging up the competition, leading their commentators to say what a “brilliant” game it has been, no matter what the reality. But the BBC know they will always have the World Cup, so Gary Lineker could say without fear of alienating the audience, “that low buzzing sound you heard during the game was not our panellists snoring”.
While the programming has been awful, the other annoying thing about this World Cup has been the vuvuzela, a metre-long trombone which constantly plays through every match. It’s not the vuvuzelas that annoy me however; it’s the reaction to them. Broadcasters, players and viewers have complained in their hundreds that the sound is unbearable, with many turning down their television sets to avoid the instruments. Well, well, well, how about that? The cure for an unbearable noise is to turn it down! It’s what I always do when James Corden pops up on the box.
The World Cup is being held in AFRICA. This is how they watch football. To ban the vuvuzela would show a deep insensitivity to how football is enjoyed in South Africa. If England wins the right to host the World Cup in 2018, how would we like it if South Africans came over and complained about the middle class toffs who sit in the stands and brag to the people around them about their business empire?
Broadcasters have struggled to drown out the noise as the vuvuzelas are set to roughly the same pitch as human speech, although it does at least cancel out Martin Keown’s commentary, so it has its advantages. There have been a few shocks as well. North Korea only went down 2-1 against Brazil. And the old cliché about “playing for your life” has probably never been more relevant than under the despot Kim Jong Il.
I did admire the forgetfulness of everyone at the pub, as they were all supporting the Koreans. As one bloke sarcastically muttered, “we can forgive fascism when a team could stop one of England’s rivals”. Every time the Koreans won a throw-in we cheered. When it remained 0-0 at half-time we were ecstatic. If Kim Jong Il, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Oswald Mosley, Nick Griffin, Robert Mugabe and Joseph Fritzl were in the same squad, they’d get three cheers as long as they beat Spain.
Perhaps worse than the cultural misunderstandings of the vuvuzela is the column inches in newspapers dedicated to people moaning about the World Cup. Every four years we have to suffer a bout of letters complaining that there are too many games taking up airtime, usually mentioning at least half of the following phrases: “we are all license players”, “not all of us like football”, “can’t believe people get so worked up”, “it is just kicking a ball”, “move it to pay-per-view” etc.
Come on England. Forget the haters, sort it out and bring home the Jules Rimet.