Football and television have long been natural bedfellows. And from Thursday if you’re not a footie fan then the next month’s TV schedules are not going to be to your liking.
But for those of us who love the beautiful game the World Cup is viewing heaven. Between here and July 13th, whether you watch on an old fashioned TV, your office or home computer or a phone or tablet, there are 64 matches to be anticipated, analysed and argued about, their results then filled-in on wall charts the globe over.
These 64 games don’t come cheap to your favourite networks who each pay a chunk of the $1.7 billion, according to Forbes, FIFA expects to generate this year from global television rights.
For this wallop of dosh it gets a hefty audience. 909 million television viewers around the world tuned in to at least one minute of Spain’s 1-0 extra-time win in the 2010 final over the Netherlands in Johannesburg. The average official rating was 188.4 million for each match.
I was waaay too young – ahem – to remember the 1966 World Cup that my English mates for some reason hold so dear, but clearly recall being allowed stay up to watch some of the big games four years later.
Even though Mexico ’70 was the first World Cup broadcast in colour, my memory is of pictures at the time in the O’Mahony house being black and white, dad not renting the colour TV ‘specifically for the tournament’ – that then, of course, never went back – until 1974; an older brother has a different recollection, saying dad actually rented it in 1970.
The brother and I are agreeing to disagree until someone can prove it one way or the other.
Whichever, whether in black and white or colour, over the years television has provided us all with many magical World Cup memories, the most famous trotted out repeatedly since so even if you missed them first time round, you’ve probably seen them so often by now it feels like you witnessed them as they happened.
I’m thinking of
- Gordon Bank’s spectacular save of Pele’s impeccably placed header in the classic 1970 England-Brazil group game;
- the snowstorm of ticker tape in the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires and the unpleasant stalling tactics Argentina employed to help win their first ever final in front of a raucous home crowd in 1978;
- Northern Ireland’s great 1-0 win over hosts Spain in 1982;
- Diego Maradona’s contrasting Hand-of-God and Goal-of-the-Century goals against England in Mexico in 1986;
- Ireland’s great last-16 penalty shoot-out win against Romania in Italy ’90;
- Ray Houghton’s cheekily volleyed goal for Ireland in their opening-game 1-0 win against Italy at Giants Stadium in USA ’94;
- Dennis Bergkamp’s brilliant late winner for Holland against Argentina in the France ‘98 quarter final;
- Robbie Keane’s added time equaliser for Ireland against Germany in Japan-South Korea 2002;
- English referee Graham Poll mistakenly handing out three yellow cards to Croatia’s Josip Šimunić in their match against Australia at Germany 2006;
- and Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t for England against Germany in South Africa 2010.
Of course there are millions of other moments that I haven’t included or have forgotten about – feel free to show me the error of my ways in the comments section below.
But we remember all of these great World Cup incidents – and more – why? Because we saw them live, as they happened, along with a massive global audience, on television.
And one story perfectly illustrates how this television coverage has changed over the decades.
In June 2002, the afternoon before England and Brazil were set to face off against each other in a highly anticipated early morning (in this neck of the woods) quarter-final kick off, the BBC showed in its entirety that famous 1970 encounter in Mexico between the two teams that many rate as one of the greatest international game of football ever.
Having only a vague memory of the original – in fact I’m not actually sure I saw it at the time so often have its best known moments been played out since – I booked the couch for what I assumed would be a 90 minute masterclass in magnificent football.
Not that it wasn’t – I’ll leave the pundits to debate that – but what I couldn’t ignore throughout it all was the truly appalling state of the pitch and the much slower pace of play than we’re used to in the modern game.
That wasn’t all. So used have I become to the current TV football coverage I was gobsmacked by how few cameras covered the game – maybe eight in comparison to the 20 or 30 that might be used at every big game now.
More markedly, the action replays, which were, in fairness, relatively new at the time, were just slowed down versions of what we’d just seen. No multi-camera angles revealing every aspect of every analysed incident from every conceivable direction with a dollop of computer graphics thrown in for good measure. No, just the same again please, except not quite so fast. Today’s pundits – and viewers – would be appalled.
So as you settle down to your games of choice from the 64 on offer on this, the 20th time countries from around the globe have gathered to determine which national team stands above the rest, make a note of any occurrences that may be worthy of inclusion in the above – and below – highly subjective hall of fame and remember you still probably saw it on television first.
You might also be interested in this post about why, in contrast to football, music programmes no longer works so well on television: https://www.patomahony.ie/2014/08/music-television-blues/