Over the past twelve to eighteen months the English tradition of sitting down to enjoy Match of the Day on a Saturday evening has taken a bit of a beating. The production or the show and its protagonists – the pundits – have had allegations of laziness laid firmly at their doorstep. It is a charge that was done no favours by the overly Anglo-centric coverage of games during the World Cup in South Africa.
The BBC – and other English football shows – has been accused of failing to give the fans analysis of any real substance, as well as relying on clichés and stereotypes to get them out of delivering any worthwhile opinions.
Some have defended the nature of the show, rightly in my opinion, for trying to reach the mass audience and using personalities that the general public would be willing to listen to. For all of Match of the Day’s ills it is far better than some of the offerings that are available in Italy.
One such example is Controcampo – broadcast on the Mediaset channels at 11.30pm on a Sunday evening following the conclusion of the weekend’s games.
First of all, the show is presented by a journalist in Alberto Brandi. Brandi has been involved in presenting sports shows on TV for the last 20 years so can be considered capable if unspectacular. Then there is the inclusion of Alessia Ventura, who features as the female face of the show. Ventura has been involved in a number of types of TV production and is also currently in a relationship with Pippo Inzaghi.
Alessia Ventura is a showgirl with a mediocre TV career over the last few years. She is also in a relationship with Pippo Inzaghi.
The stalwarts of the show are two characters who have been part of the game for a considerable period of time. Roberto Bettega is a Juventus stalwart throughout the 1970s. Pierpaolo Marino is a sporting director – and manager – who has been relatively inactive over the past few years. Most of the input in the show tends to come from Bettega and Marino, providing a slightly more respectable Alan and Alan partnership.
Another regular who hails from a journalistic background is Giuseppe Cruciani. Cruciani is a journalist in print, radio and TV – notably presenting Radio24’s La Zanzara.
Gianluca Paparesta was formerly an Italian league referee who had also refereed a few matches in the UEFA Cup. He hasn’t been involved in the sport since being implicated in the Calciopoli scandal but is called upon on a weekly basis to critique the referee’s performances in the Controcampo studio.
As well as these regular guests they often have a ex-footballer or manager, usually Paolo Di Canio or Arrigo Sacchi, some reasonably benign celebrities and journalists related to other sports. In the episode I’ll be using as my case study Paolo Di Canio appeared as well as two MotoGP journalists and actor Diego Abatantuono – who had a Milan bias that perhaps only Tiziano Crudelli could better.
Events off the field create an entertaining soap opera style sub context that surrounds the game, but it is pointless without the action on the pitch. So for those who aren’t able to watch Sky Italia news reels and may have missed the around the ground coverage that Novantesimo minuto provides an hour after the final whistle, this might be their only chance to catch the highlights.
Said fans will be filled with nothing but disappointment at the length of the highlights reels. The show lasts a whopping hour and forty five minutes, over two hours when adverts are taken into account, of which just one eighth is devoted to match highlights. That’s a pitiful 16 minutes and 11 seconds – every second is priceless, blink and you’ll miss it.
Worse still, the footage is often presented in a non-chronological fashion in order to fit an editorial agenda rather than simply tell the story of the match. The editing will see the decisive moments of the game at the start of the clip, to summarise the summary.
The nature of the footage gives a very poor impression of the general ebb and flow of the game, concentrating on goal mouth incidents or any moments of the game where players’ handbags have been drawn from their holsters. All of this giving the impression that the programme has very little to do with the football itself.
After the micro length highlights reels are shown, the bigger games of the weekend are discussed. They are discussed in great detail, sadly though these discussions between the eight selected pundits lack any substance, they’re extremely long winded and often irrelevant.
Topics of discussion following the Napoli-Lazio game revolved around whether or not Napoli has what it takes to win the Scudetto, and after the Milan derby they spent an abhorrent amount of time talking about whether or not Cassano should have taken his shirt off in celebration and the validity of the rule that led to him being cautioned for the crime.
Discussion about a team’s season is to be expected, as well as some casual moaning regarding an unpopular rule. It’s something we all engage in. However, it is frustrating when there was no mention of the tactics used in the games, or break down of any coaching/player errors. Footage shown while the discussion evolves is replay of the meagre offering played earlier on.
When discussion is taking place the studio transforms into a bazaar, with all of the pundits wanting to put forward their two pennies worth in search of glorious recognition. Each pundit becomes louder than the last in order to be heard as Brandi does his best to control the mob. Italy has a reputation for tactical nous, but this production makes no effort to show any of this off.
Italy is a nation where the establishment isn’t trusted and football is a game that is able to create conspiracies organically of its own accord. The referee is as big a part of the Sunday afternoon’s action as the players on each side. Before the weekends games an announcement is posted indicating who will referee each match.
Then on the following Monday the Moviola – action replay – article will be published without fail. On Controcampo the Moviola is undertaken by the refereeing pundit Gianluca Paparesta. He questions each important decision made by the referee, together with a freeze frame action replay, before delivering his damning verdict.
This is repeated a number of times for each incident, ensuring that if the referees have made a mistake after seeing the incident in real time there is enough evidence for them to be publicly slated. The decisions range from offsides and goal line clearances to penalty and free kick decisions. Everything goes under the microscope.
Ciccio TV – some light relief
This is a feature of the show that is there to provide some light relief in a similar fashion to 2 good 2 bad. Giacomo Valenti parades a number of clips from around the various grounds that are cute or funny – though also occasionally bordering on the crude and offensive. The clips can be anything from ladies removing items of clothing to old codgers nodding off during a match between, say, Chievo and Sampdoria.
The feature is strategically placed in a few places in the broadcast where the nausea of discussion has reached its optimum point. It serves to refresh the viewer and prepare them for the next hour or so of monotonous discussion, almost as though to help the view forget how poor the first half of the show was.
Give me back the two Alan’s
While Controcampo isn’t a direct comparison with Match of the Day, it isn’t a discussion forum that gives the viewer much to think about either. There are too many pundits, most of whom fail to add real value. The real pity is that the footage of the game is not dealt with in any great detail other than to lambast the referee.
The viewing experience is arduous rather than a pleasure and even if Match of the Day is considered ‘simple’ I can at least turn the volume down and watch some football.