Listening to (foreign) match commentators is sometimes interesting to do

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By Walter Broeckx

I usually watch my games with the sound of the commentators as soft as possible.  This is mostly because I’m not interested in what they are saying. When I am in the Emirates I also have nobody that is telling me what is going on  and how many years it is since we didn’t win anything. The bad thing is however that I miss the atmosphere in the stadium. So I have to find the balance so I can get a bit of the atmosphere and don’t really understand what the match reporters are telling me.  So it is always a big relieve for me when I can catch a stream and have match commentators who speak French, German, Spanish, Romanian or Swahili. Then I can enjoy the atmosphere in the stadium and most of the time the people are more of the praising kind to Arsenal (if I can understand them).

But when I am watching the game on my local sports channel on TV I do try to listen a bit to what they say.  And I do reruns of the games (like for the ref reviews but also for the fun of it) and then I sometimes try to listen to what they say.  Because on my local sports channel we have all kind of different leagues that we can follow.  We have the Belgium league of course. The French league, the Spanish league, the Italian league, the Bundesliga, the Dutch league and the Premier league. And as the reporters are always from a country that is not directly involved in the league they most of the time have a fresh view on things and their bias is not blatant at all. Except the drooling over Barcelona maybe….
That is if I can count correct 7 different leagues that I can see as much as I like. And it also has a benefit so you can see the differences between the leagues and the way refs are doing their games.  And there is a difference when you see how the refs are doing their games.

In the Bundesliga, the Italian and the Spanish league I think you have a rather high standard in refereeing. By this I mean that in general the refs are very much aware of their task in protecting not just the rules but also the players. Now I must say that this is not based on any statistical ground. It is just a feeling that you get when watching the games.
Because as a reviewer of the refs on this site I get to see a lot of games and then you can almost predict what the ref will allow or not.  And sometimes they surprise you but this can go in both ways in fact. Sometimes they suddenly punish a tackle that they don’t punish before and sometimes they let things go that in any other country would be called a foul and punished with a red card. In the 3 leagues I mentioned the refs are stricter in the applications of the laws and the dishing out of cards.

The only exception seems to be the games between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But I think no ref wants to do those games anymore in Spain as these are no longer football games but a combination of kickboxing, football, rugby, Australian football, cage fighting and Shakespeare.  This goes for the diving part of the games.  No professional Shakespeare actor can fall to the floor as most of those players can.
But you also have a strange thing with the match commentators in my country. One of our readers told me that when watching an Arsenal game with Mexican commentators she was amazed by how many times the match reporters called for a foul and then had to say: not given by the ref.  And I must say that this is something I also have noticed.

Now those match reporters are familiar with all those leagues. Some are more specialised in the EPL but in general you get them to do all kinds of games in all those leagues. Now part of being a good match commentator is being able to spot things as they happen.  Or even before they happen.  Reminds me of the fact of one match commentator we had in Belgium who whenever a goal chance presented itself was shouting “goal” even before the shot was really taken to then shout “oh nooooo”.  Anyway many match commentators act like some kind of ref calling the fouls when they see them.
And it really is amazing that those experienced match commentators are calling many fouls when they see them and they have to follow up with saying: oh, but the ref doesn’t give it.  No I am not saying that this never happens in the other leagues but the difference is that in those games they hardly say it as in the EPL they say it a few times each game.

I know of course that match commentators can make mistakes but it is obvious that if they would make the same mistakes over and over again they would make it in all the leagues they cover.  But as I hardly notice it in those games and I usually listen to them with the sound turned on in those games to know who is who as I don’t know the players that well from all the teams in those leagues.  But the fact I don’t hear this in those games is something that makes you think.
It can’t be the match commentators who suddenly know nothing. It can’t be the rules because the rules are  the same worldwide.  So this leaves us with the only possible explanation that it has to be the standard of the refs in the different leagues.

The EPL is one of the best leagues in the world but for some reason the referees are not really up to the high and required standard like in the rest of Europe.  The fact that the FA don’t allow openly criticism of the refs is regrettable. I really believe that the only way that humanity has progressed is by being critical and open for criticism. Because when you don’t allow people to question the system you get the impression after a while that all is well and fine. Even when it isn’t well and fine.

The only way to go forward is to be open. Open to the refs but most certainly open to the public and the teams. If the FA and the PGMO  would openly admit the errors made by refs it would be a signal to the people that they accept that mistakes are made. And if refs are punished for their mistakes in an open way, just as the players are openly punished when they get a suspension for a red card. Knowing that when a ref made a terrible wrong call and that he gets punished by doing a game in the first division for a weekend it doesn’t make up for the mistake but it gives you a feeling that somewhat justice is done with the ref himself.

And most of all, wouldn’t it make refs more aware of the fact that if they mess up they will be exposed and nobody really likes being exposed as not having done a proper job. So imagine that refs would try to improve themselves to avoid such thing. Well I would try to avoid such a thing. Maybe the refs in the EPL would want to avoid such things.

It also would shut the door a bit more to possible refs trying to influence the game with blatant mistakes. Because then those mistakes will not be brushed under the carpet but will be exposed in broad daylight.

And maybe our match commentators will no longer see and feel the difference between refs in the EPL and in the Bundesliga or Spanish or Italian leagues.

20 Replies to “Listening to (foreign) match commentators is sometimes interesting to do”

  1. “The only way to go forward is to be open”
    Walter, Super article, and so reasonable, and gently open-ended for solutions (by design) Since reform isn’t on from within the non-open FA and PGMO, the open question – the how to openly follow up on your observation – comes down to this:
    Are WE fans of any/all clubs open to demand video replay? And if not, we’ll be open to lots more EPL refshite and more open-ended articles that go tsk-tsk until the next gentle nudge. What needs closing is the open gap between our/your perception of the open miscalls and non-calls on the pitch and fans doing anything.
    Yours truly, in open admiration,
    a broken record

  2. p.s. And the same goes to support a manager like, yes, Chelsea’s, who after the last match OPENLY shed light on how the Webbmaster just paid in full on his promissory note to one Sir AF (aka Don Fergus). Did anyone here follow-up on Andres Villas-Boas’s daring post-match statement? Why not? Because Chelski’s complaints about UA-unfavorite Webbmaster Howard are, after all, secretly relished because we need to overtake them in the table? Of course. Tribalism divides the fanbase at precisely the point where AFC/UA fans could make common cause with each other on the malpractices of the Webbmeister (well documented hereabouts by now when it comes to AFC). Of course it would transgress all tradition to make common cause with the other tribe, especially another London tribe. But, of course, it’s for precisely such “reasons” that there’s no rivlet in sight that would make a groundswell possible. Until, that is, something “unforseen” happens on the pitch that is so outrageous that people will actually make a long overdue demand for fair play on the pitch and put fingers to keyboard and sign some kind of publicized online petition. Oh happy day. Until then, another round of well done, Walters (and deservedly so) is all we’re likely to accomplish. That said, Go Gunners!

  3. Great article and solution Walter, but can you also then give us another undetectable way to fix matches in favor of the Great Lord Fergie?


    FA & PGMOL

  4. p.s. a MEDIA DROPLET: Is it toxic opportunism or sad reality? Some Spanish papers echoed by eager Anglosphere blogs, are stirring up the pressure and tippy-tapping of RvP’s summer exit to Real or Barca, choose your poison. This season’s Cesc-to-Leave media feeding frenzy will soon be on.

  5. Related to foreigners, but not games. This week’s predictions by Lawrenson at the BBC, has him entertaining predictions from Kermit and Miss Piggy. Yes, I know the muppets, but I don’t understand why they only predicted scores to 3 games, and how a prediction of 27-35 ManU versus Liverpool came to be. Is there an “inside” joke there?

    I know when I was in Wien many years ago for a conference, I watched a couple of games on TV, and even went to a game in the suburbs, I didn’t understand much of what people were saying. I know some German words, but I never mastered untangling the grammar.

  6. 2 of my many bug bears !
    1/ commentator, usually the supposed expert, i.e. some clown like Waddle, will make a call, such as the ref got it wrong there, it wasn’t a foul, then on the replay, which clearly show’s that it was a foul, instead of just saying, whoops, my mistake, the ref got it spot on there, they try and and defend the original statement by saying something like, yeah but the players made the most of it, not really a foul, in my day or some other nonsense etc etc.
    2/ Why is it if Wenger is seen on touchline engaging with the 4th officia he is said to be moaning, whilst other managers are angry or showing their displeasure etc.
    Rant over, for now !

  7. Though i hate Sir Fergus with Passion because of his casinolism antics in the premiership, if it was him who have taken the UNTOUCHABLE ,UNBEATEN run he will be Lord, thanks to Prof Wenger i would love to see them both as part time England coaches. But if England want to be out in the group stages then bring in the one man trophy,rather the dog account guy.

  8. Hello Walter, and thanks for an excellent article, which touches on one of my pet hates: commont-liar-pundits.

    I really suffer when I have to listen to their talk. I’m happiest when I can hear the foreign language commentators as I cannot understand what’s being said – but I can hear what’s going on at the ground. I can also hear surprise in their voices when there are contentious decisions (sometimes, derision).

    The piece below wasn’t written by me. It appeared either in the comments from UA, or the comments from The Tuesday Club:

    “It is the job of the commentator to distract from, misinform on and conceal the blatant corruption that the viewer is watching.
    His script is a lullaby for the credulous masses – atomised, in their arm chairs and utterly confused.
    Above all else he must protect the perceived integrity of the brand”.

    I apologise for not having the name of the person who wrote this but I was so pleased to see something so succinct.

    Bob, thanks for your usual incite-fullness. I looked up and found this quote from AVB:

    “[There were] some strange decisions today. At Old Trafford, we lost two goals to two offside decisions. These things keep happening. Today, the first one was a penalty, I do agree with that. The second one I don’t think so. I don’t know if Howard Webb is trying to compensate for something.”

    I presume Walter, Bob and some others don’t have the pleasure of listening to certain EPL commentators, regularly – the ones that drive me crazy. Amongst them are Peter (Dreary) Drury, Clive Tildesley, Jim Beglin… oh boy, I can’t go on naming them as I feel sick, so here’s a link to a couple of ITV’s people. Please note that at the bottom of the article, there are links for Alan Green (radio), and Clive Tildesley among others:

    @ the mickster:
    I share your displeasure.


  9. @bob:

    I’m worried that they might be gearing up for an Arsene Wenger transfer saga as well. Which will, of course, accomplish nothing other than making fans’ lives miserable while it continues.

  10. @Walter:

    Great article. I was the one who left the comments about those Mexican commentators, and it really was quite a revealing experience.

    “Falta! El arbitro dice que no?”


  11. Maybe we could write it in our own languages so if you catch a stream and you know when the reporter is calling a foul that the ref refuses to see 😉

    Fout! De ref geeft ze niet

  12. Walter,
    Be thankful that the sound of present day commentators can be
    substituted by VISION!
    In my youth, all we had was a radio, two commentators and a page of the Radio Times on which was printed a layout of a football pitch, segregated into 8 numbered squares. The main commentator would describe the play whilst his colleague would occasionally call out the numbered square to identify where the action was taking place.
    A little piece of history over which to ponder. 😆

  13. Nicky,
    What was the attitude toward Arsenal in your radio days as a kid? Which radio network (if any) broadcast Arsenal? Was it every game, or once a week, etc. Lots of commercials? Commercial free? For comparison with now, it would be great to know your details on this. Cheers.

  14. Anne,
    Yes, I agree: the Arsene-to-Leave for Real/PSG stirrings have begun to bruise the radar screen hereabouts. But, of course it’s not (ever) personal – just business. (Toxic doesn’t begin to describe them). Timid for the return of some of the wounded while the race for the top four is still a race with us in it. Vigilance! Go Gunners!

  15. Rantetta, Walter, UA, All
    For any who might want to hear the voice of a brave coach have a very specific go at Howard Webb and the ManUre advantage, even calling Welbeck a cheat, try this: Readers and adminstrators hereabouts might consider this an uncommon moment of commonality with the very team that we are contesting for 4th place. The fact that they are our rivals is in the way of seeing that there is common cause to be had, and that Villas-Boas of Chelsea is in the truth – actually doing something about the refshite in a way that very few have/will dare. Perhaps he and AW could call a press conference in which they lay out their joint indictment of how the pitch gets tilted the ManUre-way with and do so with UA’s best ref review findings ready at hand. (Dreaming out loud)

  16. Woah! Ta for that link, Bob.
    I’d no idea all of that was said. I suppose I wasn’t thinking about what other news was about besides Rosie47. Come to think of it, after our last match I’ve probably missed everything whilst basking in the memory of it – only delving into UA for my fix.

    I didn’t get away with that. Anne produced a sparkling 2- piecer which was brill, however, there was a link to one (and more) negativisites, and having clicked and read, and despite context, I felt a bit down to once again see what’s being peddled in the name of Arsenal. Can’t think what is was – have picture in mind of the Ox ****ing up Blackburn’s right side and taking that ball from Theo, shifting it and wrong footing the whole ****ing team and then placing the ball in the corner. Forgive me for not checking out AVB’s reaction – to a match I saw live. “Merriment” comes to mind as I soaked up what was happening through that match. There wasn’t a fraction of the outrage I felt whilst watching “The greatest ever Premier L. match: Newc 4 Ars 4.

    Still, you have worthy out-loud dreams, though I fear what extra punishment might become available to a pair of foreign managers tinkering dangerously close to the inner skin of the crux-icity! (It’s late).

    I’m dreaming of 3rd place in the table, but, one step at a time. It’d be soooo good to get the 3 points at Sunderland. Sooooooo good.

  17. @Bob,
    Nothing as frequent as that, I’m afraid. The only broadcaster was the BBC and then just the Cup Final and the internationals. Mind you, Arsenal were often in the FAC Final!
    We guys picked up our Gooner news via the papers (a day late) and were masters of Club news and statistics.
    Compared to today’s media offering, they were NOT the “GOOD Old Days”.
    Our team then was something like
    Moss;Male and Hapgood;Crayston, Joy and Copping; Kirchen, L.Jones, Drake,B.Jones and Bastin.

  18. @ Nicky – if memory serves me right , in that list are the magnificent seven who played in the same England team.

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