television Football Fussball Voetbal Jasper Rees gets a kick out of footie speak a l'etranger on BBC2

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The Independent Culture
Football Fussball Voetbal, a history of the European game, adopts the philosophy of the penalty shoot-out. You lead off with your best man and, in the hope of getting well ahead, leave the lame and useless till last. So, in the Lineker role, the opener was "written and presented by" Barry Davies. Parts 8 and 9, the Pearce and Waddle slots, will be "botched and bungled by", respectively, Clive Tyldesley and Ray Stubbs.

It was obvious that these were the correct tactics as soon as we chanced upon Barry in a Paris cafe, nose deep in a copy of L'Equipe. What class. Here's a man who can read the European game. Bet he ordered that coffee in the native parlance. He strode up to the spot to slot home a few French names. Easy. The first one hit the post: "Le Keep," he said, referring to the journal in his paws. Steady, Barry, keep your eye on the acute accent. The next went just wide, when the founder of the World Cup was rechristened Jools Rimet. Well, it is an away leg. But then he stubbed his tongue on Reims and walloped it well clear of the bar. Only in your nightmares does Reims rhyme with "dreams".

A week after Gary Lineker's report on Dutch talent-spotting, four days after Kicking and Screaming, the BBC clearly felt the time had come for another football documentary. It's not as if there's too much football on the box or anything. Many viewers are still reeling from shock after last Tuesday morning between 4am and 4.15am, when there was no football- related programme on a single channel.

Panic over. Despite mispronunciations, Football Fussball Voetbal knows what it's talking about, and talks about it non-stop. Treading that fine line between People's Century and Match of the Seventies, its success lies in understanding, and treating, the double myopia that afflicts the little Englander, who has scant interest in old footballers and scanter in old foreign footballers. When questioned, eight out of 10 Union Jack owners said Puskas was a brand of cat food.

In Part 1, we covered Spain and Portugal, incorporating a two-second history of the Spanish Civil War. A longer introduction to this Franco chap would have helped, but might have entailed binning the interview with John Toshack. It was a particular pleasure to meet the old Real Madrid hard man Jose Santamaria, and reflect that Vinnie Jones might be that slightly less monstrous (and slightly less Welsh) with a name like Vinnie Virgin Mary. The most surreal bit of all was the French newspaper headline, "Non, Wolverhampton n'est pas encore le 'champion du monde des clubs'". With Graham Taylor at the helm, it could still so easily happen.

Barry, by the way, wasn't the only one getting his lingos crossed. A former Benfica captain remembered waiting for the whistle in a European final. "I started to control the clock," reported the subtitle. ("Controllare" in Italian means "to check": a fiver says it's the same in Portuguese). Sounds like one of those dirty foreign tricks. No wonder they scored so many goals back then. Reims and reims of them.

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