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Out of it in Africa

June 19th, 2006 by · No Comments · Armchair Fan, Football

One of the common themes in both the press and on TV here is the worry over whether African spectators are safe in around the stadiums and, indeed, across Germany. There are numerous references to the recent spate of African and ‘African-American’ players being abused by crowds. Examples used include players being taunted with racist leaflets, peanuts and bananas being thrown onto the pitch, verbal abuse in Spain and Nazi flags being unfurled at Italian grounds.

The BBC of South Africa, SABC, is covering all the games but is in fierce competition with SuperSport, a 24 hour sport-only broadcaster. SuperSport seem to have seven or eight channels dedicated to every major sport. South Africa is so sport mad that they probably couldn’t survive in any other market. If you want to catch up on a week old rugby game at 4am, this is the place to be.

SABC, previously the voice of Apartheid, is currently being accused of acting as the voice of the governing ANC, which is ironic. Their News coverage is under almost daily criticism from the press so it was with some relief that their world cup coverage drew attention for all the wrong reasons.

The in-match commentary is acceptable as both channels take the ITV commentary. The pre and post match analysis is another story altogether. The panel are a fast talking bunch and in a country of eleven official languages it’s understandable that accents can be completely impenetrable. It’s not unusual during News and current affairs programmes to find presenters switching languages mid-sentence.

The SABC researchers also need a talking to as ‘facts’, such as ‘South Korea appearing in their seventh final’, are bandied around without challenge. To add to that there is terrible lip synching, loss of picture and sound and the constant irritation of the most intrusive advertising you will see outside of the US. It’s this lack of editorial and technical rigour that has drawn the most criticism, even questions about whether the license fee should be reconsidered. Over on SuperSport, a subscription channel, the technology is almost as bad and the panel is fronted by retired goalkeeper Gary Bailey [Man U] with Gary Mabutt providing the dynamism. Yes, you can imagine.

Both panels provide an interesting perspective on the games that you wouldn’t hear in the UK media, how about the ‘Angolans bid for blood of ex-colonial masters’ Portugal? or a discussion on whether Tunisia is really an African team. However, both channels generally echo the sentiment on the street and are supporting any African team when they are playing and are genuinely excited when they do well. Doing well, until Ghana’s win, meant not being humiliated.

After the first round of group games most pundits were convinced that the African teams had not prepared properly, were overawed by the occasion, and showed a lack of concentration. Despite these criticisms they tipped Ghana and Ivory Coast to recover and qualify for the next round. They may yet be half right.

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