Sport on TV: Life's a beach for the pundits even if it isn't for the locals


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The Independent Online

When he ventured into the Amazon jungle in David Beckham into the Unknown (BBC1, Monday), the former pride and joy of England's three lions looked a lot like Dennis Hopper's deranged groupie in Apocalypse Now with his tattoos and bristly chin and bandana. Sadly he would never be mistaken for Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz as he revealed that Victoria wouldn't let him back in the house before he had showered. But then Kurtz probably never had a woman like Posh Spice behind him, unless that was why he disappeared in the first place.

As the build-up to the World Cup carried on with Lineker in Brazil: The Beautiful Game (BBC1, Tuesday), the presenter stuck to Copacabana beach and settled for rolling up his trouser legs when it came to going native. Lineker stopped short of putting a hanky on his head, at least, but he did try to grow some facial hair, though it was an embarrassing effort that made him look even more shifty than Gary Neville.

Lineker was speaking to some of the greatest purveyors of fantasy football. As a player who specialised in knocking the ball into the net from about two yards out, perhaps this was a voyage of discovery for him, too: the wide world outside the penalty area. This involved talking to Fernanda Lima, the stunning Brazilian TV presenter, though it was hard to fathom why (in footballing terms anyway).

The one he really wanted to meet was Ronaldo, presumably not only because he also possesses a very dodgy goatee but because he is so chubby now that he actually looks like a football – and makes our Gary look good.

There was a predictable cast of characters here, including John Barnes, the closest we have to a Zico or a Socrates, who scored a wondrous Brazilian goal against the selecao in a friendly but admitted: "If the match had meant anything, someone would have tackled me. The Brazilians were on holiday – or drunk." Pah, that's nothing; England's football supporters can do both of those at once.

The pick of the interviewees had to be Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish sitting in a posh restaurant discussing Scotland's dismantling by the Brazilians in 1982. It is hard to imagine a less congenial dinner party. Kenny was staring in disbelief at the proxy little starter in front of him. Clearly that defeat in Seville still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

If that was possibly the most miserable meeting of minds in the world, then Lineker's programme kept hammering home the point that Brazilians just love their life so much, even though they seem to spend their whole time getting upset and rioting.

One of the talking heads we will have to get used to over the next month is Tim Vickery, a journalist who has lived out there for 20 years. On the highlights after Brazil beat Croatia in the opening game (Match of the Day, BBC1, Thursday) he bemoaned the fact that everyone else in the world thought "ah, Brazil: carnival, sex, Pele", adding: "All the cheap stereotypes about this happy country full of happy, dancing, happy people, happy all the time – well, the reality is more complicated". One would hope so, but thanks for that enlightening revelation. Perhaps he's been living out there too long.

You could tell that all was not well in Brazil by the fact that there were about a hundred police cars in the background by Copacabana beach with all their sirens flashing. It looked as if Colonel Kurtz had got fed up with the jungle and had come to town. And the fact that locals were throwing rocks at the windows of the ITV studio.

However, judging by the sight of Alan Shearer and Danny Mills sitting side by side in the Beeb's beachside bunker, their bald domes looking like a couple of pebbles washed up on the shore, it might actually have been them trying to sabotage their broadcasting rivals.