Television Review

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The Independent Culture
IT MAY be stretching things to label Broughton B Under 13s, as did last night's 10x10 (BBC2), "The Worst Jewish Football Team in the World". Then again, it may not. Last season, they came bottom of the Jewish Under-13s league in north Manchester, losing 17-0, 20-0, 23-0, 25-0, 27-0, 20-0 and, on one glorious occasion which Gary Ogin's camera managed to capture, 19-1. They would have made a clean sweep of it had one fixture not been cancelled, winning them a solitary point.

Their one supporter (whom the film labelled, rather sarcastically, "The Supporter's Club") said hopefully that they could get better; the consensus was that they couldn't get much worse. The team's sponsor, a local optician, said that he hadn't known when he agreed to sponsor them just how bad they were. When he did see them, his first thought was that they needed their eyes testing, though most of them were already wearing glasses. Opponents were more generous, saying that they had good players but failed to perform well together. The extent of this generosity was suggested by footage of uncertain passes and defenders flinching from the ball. One Broughton team member tried to explain what made them different from other teams: "They just pass it while we're busy standing there or sitting down or whatever."

While Ogin's film didn't disguise the comic potential here, what distinguished it was the affectionate, even admiring tone: however badly they lost, the team remained good-humoured, enthusiastic, hopeful. In modern Jewish fiction, sport recurs as a painful topic - a goyisch means of asserting authority (see Clive Sinclair's short story Wingate Football Club and Philip Roth passim). But for these 11-year-olds, trying to head the ball without dislodging their yarmulkas, the relationship between Jewishness and sport seemed devoid of angst. Asked how it felt to lose every week, one boy said: "Well, we come out and we enjoy ourselves, so it's not that bad. The result doesn't really count."

The team was rewarded with the league trophy for good sportsmanship, and an entire TV film to itself. Nice guys may not win ball games, but nice guys know that winning ball games is not what life is about. A lovely film and particularly welcome after a sickening Picture This (BBC2), which featured children talking about their imaginary friends.

The friends ranged from the practical and imaginative - Miles, whose invisible chum Fudge Eater ran an antique shop under the sofa - to the banal and icky (Alice's soft, fluffy, invisible white mouse, Tiptoe). Parents smiled indulgently at their offspring, while they lisped cute nothings at the camera (Tiptoe could fly "because invisible things can fly"). With only the feeblest gestures towards analysis, the film descended into a mawkish compilation of The things kids say!. The situation was not helped by soppy guitar music and images of the fluff being blown off dandelion clocks, which I'm afraid were intended to suggest the passing of childhood. Never mind. I have a small and sadistic inquisitor living under my desk who will nip round to Stuart Napier, producer of this nonsense, and apply some diddy thumbscrews.

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