If there is one thing this blog does more than anything, it is take commonly but lazily stated viewpoints and challenge them – rarely confirming them, usually refuting them. Nowhere does this become easier than watching BBC and ITV “punditry” during a major football championship.
Reciting “facts” as if they are beyond challenge is appallingly lazy and, in the era of the Internet, there is even less excuse for it than ever. In football, this reaches truly shocking levels, with pundits spewing utter nonsense and, astonishingly, being paid for it! We must demand better – and in the meantime be thankful for the geniuses on sites such as FourFourTwo’s Back of the Net for mercilessly mocking the whole charade.
Let us run through just a small selection of the nonsense trotted out by highly paid “experts” during just the first few games…
“I don’t care whether it’s intentional or not, if he’s gained an advantage I think it’s handball” (Lee Dixon) – er, you can think what you like, but that’s not what the laws of the game say and, curiously, it is the laws of the game and not Lee Dixon’s opinion that the referees are obliged to go by. The laws could not be clearer – intentional handball is a foul, unintentional handball isn’t. This even has the added advantage of being so incredibly simple anyone can understand it – except “expert pundits”, apparently.
“Italy are past masters at defending 1-0 leads” (the entire pundit universe) – if I was given a euro for every time I heard that I would probably be able to clear Italy’s sovereign debt, but the simple fact is there is no evidence for this contention whatsoever. Within my own time following international football, I can recall equalizers by the gloriously named Getov (for Bulgaria in the 1986 World Cup’s opening game), the gloriously talented Maradona (for Argentina in the next group game), the gloriously haired Caniggia (again for Argentina in the 1990 World Cup semi), the gloriously frustrating Caminero (for Spain, albeit ultimately in vain, in the 1994 World Cup quarter final), the glorious title-winning Wiltord (most memorably perhaps, for France deep in injury time of the Euro 2000 final), the gloriously heeled Ibrahimovic (cheekily but decisively for Sweden in the Euro 2004 group), the gloriously inept Zacchardo (into his own net against the United States even in Italy’s winning World Cup campaign of 2006) and of course twice already in Euro 2012 games in which many of the pundits had started trotting out the refrain… those are only the occasions I personally recall, and they probably amount to more losses of a 1-0 lead than any other major team in major tournaments during the period!
Bryan Robson scored the fastest goal in World Cup history (every English pundit is obliged to add this to the term “1982” just as they are obliged to add something about beating the Germans to “1966”, stated in each case as if informing the rest of us for the first time) – yes, a line no doubt beloved by English pundits who have had little else to celebrate at major tournaments and have themselves grown tired of mentioning the number “1966” complete with compulsory subsequent reference to Geoff Hurst, people on the pitch and “4-2”. A line, but not actually a fact… it is not, and was never, the fastest goal in World Cup history. Hakan Sukur scored the fastest goal in World Cup history for Turkey against South Korea in 2002; he broke a record not of twenty years’ standing, but of forty years’ standing, set by Masopust for Czechoslovakia against Mexico in 1962 (a game his team contrived to lose 3-1, as it happens).
The Irish Football Association… doesn’t have a team in the Finals. The rarely mentioned Football Association of Ireland, on the other hand, has. By the way, it represents the Republic of Ireland, not just “the Republic”. Just for reference, by virtue of being a “Republic”, it is not part of the United Kingdom and therefore is not a “home nation”. That’s kinda what all the trouble was about, you know?
“As they push up, there’s a risk they’ll leave more space at the back” (compulsory for pundits if either side is leading at any stage in the second half, except if the main commentator has already said it) – not wrong, but just so completely, unbelievably and gallingly obvious that could they just, you know, not say it?