Friday 22 February 2019

VARticle 19 - The continuing 2018 World Cup reflections from an untrained Eye...

Some people do like V.A.R, I understand, and that's fine. Someone at FIFA, or UEFA or on behalf of the clubs must have put up a campaign for it - perhaps plastered it's debatable plus points up on the side of a bus - and swung the vote, leaving those against it angry, and those for it, still angry. While some say that V.A.R has bought much needed clarity to arguable incidents and eradicated the endless blabbering on about wrong decisions given, others might argue that V.A.R itself has become the thing people are endlessly blabbering on about. But fear not, you won't find that in this post. Here, it's Part 2 of my World Cup (Ref)lections...


When England and Italy walked out to face each other in the previous World Cup in Brazil, the four hour time difference between Manaus and the UK wasn't lost on Guy Mowbray.

"It's close to midnight, let's hope it's a thriller", he'd quipped.

Four years on, the line about Parisians partying like it's 1998 showed that he hadn't lost his penchant for a ready-made one-liner. But is he funny ha ha, or funny, Dad joke, funny? Or is there something more disturbing going on?

Mowbray's obsession with the surname of Argentina's right back sounding a bit like a toy construction system seemed to suggest he was suffering from some kind of mental breakdown, which must have been a worry for BBC Sport executives still reeling from the escalating madness of David Icke in the eighties. For years Icke's football round ups contained subtle, subliminal warning messages that nobody picked up on until he was properly enveloped in sandwich boards displaying chalked soundbites of doom.

This isn't to suggest Mowbray will end up as damaged as Icke, or indeed follow in the footsteps of another former BBC sports correspondent, David Davies, who not only agreed to became Executive Director at the FA, but also co-wrote Glenn Hoddle's 1998 World Cup Diary. But a further example of Mowbray's state of mind this summer could be heard in his response to Dele Alli's close range headed goal that put England 2-0 up against one of the worst Sweden teams ever, describing the act as "the stuff of dreams".

This man must be monitored before Euro 2020.    

Steve Wilson is my preferred BBC commentator, and though he too has in the past delivered vocal hyperactivity in an attempt to make a name of himself (an approach that also sadly worked for Jonathan Pearce), he has a notably less considered stance these days. I liked his reaction to Will Grigg's goal for League One Wigan Athletic which put Manchester City out of the FA Cup last season: "Oh, I do not believe it...I do not believe it!"

I have to say though, that Wilson's attention to detail isn't quite on Mowbray's level (aside from the Meccano incidents). Having blotted his copybook at Euro 16 by stating that the France-Germany semi final was "twenty years after" their World Cup semi Final (actually thirty), in Russia he provided more misinformation from the same stage of that same World Cup in Mexico. He claimed during an Argentina game that the famous photo of Maradona being surrounded by Belgian players was from the other semi-final in '86, when of course, everyone back home was yelling at him that it was from the opening game of the '82 tournament. The dufus!

Some years ago there was a campaign called "Let's Kick Tyldesley Out of Football", or at least a few t shirts were made, but still ITV have found no one with equal knowledge that has a less annoying delivery. So Clive Tyldesley was the man in line prepared to deliver live and exclusive confirmation of England's appearance in a World Cup Final. Speaking to the microphone for the first time before England-Croatia, he referenced the commentary "giants" of Brian Moore and John Motson  (the men on hand for England's last semi final in 1990), and uttered almost mournfully that he'd "try his best to live up to them" over the course of the match, but in saying so he'd already failed, because he'd just made it all about him.

That said, I liked his comment in that semi final when an England attack was played out to a backdrop of strategically placed mobile phones: "People don't want to watch football these days, they just want to take photographs".

This proves that it's possible to share common ground with anyone. And as someone who has shared football grounds with photo-obsessed tourists, I would happily forego the Tyldesley Out campaign, or t shirts to concentrate on kicking them out instead.

'Where are the Tourists? Frankly, who cares?'    

It was nice to hear from John Champion again this summer, although his return wasn't from the wilderness as I'd initially assumed as I now understand he'd left ITV for BT Sport, who have several subscribers now.

I still miss Brian Moore and Barry Davies, though.


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