Sport on TV: Bad keepers and gamblers in need of self-esteem

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The Independent Online
RARELY DO you get a programme (much less a sliver of a thing like BBC2's 10x10) that leaves you asking: "How on earth can I do this justice?"

As its name implies, 10x10 is a series of 10 10-minute documentaries with no particular brief. Tuesday's, "The Worst Jewish Football Team In The World", was a sheer delight.

At the time of filming, Broughton Park "B" under-13's record was played 10, won 0, drawn 0, lost 10, seven goals for, 106 against. The refrain "We're crap and we know we are" could have been written for them.

As Moishe, the midfield pocket battleship puts it, with little in the way of punctuation: "Well, they just tread over us they just like get past us they just pass it while we're busy standing there or sitting down or whatever and they just get past us and all of a sudden you're just about to save a goal and it's a goal - before you can say the word `goal' it is a goal."

And they are truly pathetic in the course of the 19-1 defeat we witness (sadly, we don't see them score). Especially the poor goalie. I mean, my mum's better than he is, and let's face it, her heart's hardly in it. There's a lovely shot of one of the defenders shying away as the ball floats past him and into the net. Earlier, they each try a spot of keep- up for the camera. It ends with little Avi almost decking the cameraman.

Still, they love what they're doing, and their manager says the hardest part of his job is telling the lads who haven't made the team (I've heard Liverpool are in for one or two of them). Moishe puts it well. "We should learn to have courage and practise at home," he says, "and we should know that we're all human and we can all do our bit."

There's another lovely scene when the gaffer gives the team talk. "We're going to win today, aren't we? Let's go!" They cheer, then turn to the camera and giggle at the absurd notion of them going into the match fired up.

There was another joyous, life-enhancing film from the Beeb last night in the Picture This strand. "Stood For This Massive" was a portrait of professional gambler Harry Findlay, a man who makes Falstaff look like someone in a coma.

He bets mainly on the dogs (we see him early on placing an incomprehensible spread of what appear to be 21 separate bets on only three races), with a bit on the horses and the football. But he also bets on the tennis matches he plays (when we see him in action, he's six grand down on the week), and even on who pays the bill at the end of the many and varied restaurant meals he consumes.

He has no illusions about the game he's in. "It's trickery, kidology, cajolery, jealousy and envy all rolled into one," he says. His biggest night was when he was in Amsterdam with his wife Kay, six months pregnant, and their worldly goods, pounds 40,000, riding on the second leg of the Uefa Cup final at 2-1 on - "the most important night of my gambling life."

Kay describes her first date with him - at Wembley to see his dog, Chiquita Banana, win her race and break the track record.

"My friend and I were stood at the winning line at the bottom and he was stood right at the top," says Kay, "and when she crossed the line there was this mega, mega noise, and I thought: `My god, what have I done?'" (Strange, she doesn't seem the kind of person to go round quoting Talking Heads songs).

He used to be a compulsive gambler until family life gave him some self- esteem. There's a scene both touching and hysterically funny with his daughter, drawing her a map of Italy, showing her where they're going on holiday. "That's Naples, where we get off the plane, that's the coast - it's a boot, Italy, you know it's a boot, don't you? We go across there to Rome - then we go dog racing and horse racing, then we go up there to watch the football..."

At the end the director, Stuart Mitchell (this, remarkably, is his graduation film from the Royal College of Art) asks: "Do you think this life..." and Harry breaks in, "...brings out the best in you." It seems to have done precisely that in his case.

When you're commentating on events that last for hours, you need a bit of leeway to include a few musings on life in general. On Eurosport at the moment, David Duffield is filling the Tour de France stages with musings on subjects like a comparison of Selly Oak in Birmingham with the suburbs of Paris, or the fact that the second city has more canals than Venice.

Fortunately, there's always Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen on Channel 4 (who, I can testify, having sat in at Channel 4 during an entire stage a couple of years ago, are well able to fill the airtime with relevant material). Now all C4 needs to do is put the extra hour-long highlights programme on at six in the evening instead of four in the morning.