Sport on TV: It's a tale of two Ronnies and a rocket to the stars
Sunday 24 June 2012
Jürgen Klinsmann has returned to our screens just in time to heap misery upon our burgeoning hopes. "Our favourite German," as Gary Lineker called him (Match of the Day Live, BBC1, Thursday) – the list is not a lengthy one – exudes the haughty assurance of a true winner, and immediately he raised the bar: "To be a special player you need to win a major trophy, the European Championship or the World Cup."
Lineker went quiet for a moment – with awe or shame, maybe both. Perhaps the pause was while the former England striker, like the rest of us, ran a quick mental check on all the players in the last 46 years who we thought were legends but weren't. Keegan, Lineker, Gascoigne, Shearer: no. Johnny Jensen, Angelos Charisteas: yes.
Klinsmann was talking about Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the first Euro 2012 quarter-final between Portugal and the Czech Republic. Straightaway the commentator Jonathan Pearce reminded us that even the Czechs had won the Euros back in 1976. Add Antonin Panenka and his chums to the roster of legends then. One might quibble that they also had the Slovakians in those days, but that's like England benefiting from the inclusion of a few Scots in the team. We have that prospect to look forward to in a month, at the Olympics.
Given that this was the "Ronaldo show" and the camera lingered lovingly on him for most of the match, it seemed possible that actually Klinsmann was wrong. In these days of billion-pound broadcasting deals, special players are created by the TV producers. And Ronaldo played the "posing, preening, prolific" part perfectly. Many legends of the past might have crumpled like a diving German striker under such media scrutiny. Ronaldo had threatened to let us down in the first two matches but really he was toying with us, showing his close control. Now the other side of the two Ronnies is rearing his pretty face, and it was inevitable the TV star would end the show with the winning goal.
"Will this be the year he becomes a full international football legend?" screamed Pearce, one of the few men in broadcasting who can ask a question at 90 decibels. It's certainly a piercing noise.
We were informed that Ronaldo now has his own logo, in which the "A" is replaced by a silhouette of him poised over a free-kick. One can't imagine such iconography around many of the German players down the years – maybe Franz Beckenbauer with a Kaiser crown, or Rudi Völler with a bubble perm? And what would Stefan Kuntz's agent have come up with?
Summariser Martin Keown seemed to disagree with Pearce on virtually every foul committed, the layman eventually maintaining a rare respectful silence. Then there's Gordon Strachan, who is incapable of letting the man he replaced as Middlesbrough manager, Gareth Southgate, finish a sentence without interrupting him. It's cringeworthy but the expectation is almost as delectable as the games themselves. And what of Roy Keane on ITV, who disagrees with all and sundry to the point where he looks like he's spoiling for a fight. Even on the sofa at home you're squirming and sweating slightly. Perhaps after all he is a special player who never won a major tournament. Now please take your foot off my neck, Roy.
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