Magical mastery, skill of broadcasting football

Journalism still does matter. This at a time when the skill has been buttered on every side mostly because most of those domestically engaged in it do not seek to rise to a lofty level. Or in spiritual terms, most of those engaged in it do not seem to have a calling.

Listening to commentary on the ongoing football World Cup demonstrates some of the passion that some commentators have and how they have used it to carry their audience to another level even without appearing to try hard to do so. Fans of pidgin English, that West African Hodgepodge of languages by the excitement in the voice of the commentator and his use of language.

But probably the most passion has been evidenced in the commentaries of Peter Drury, a graduate of the University of Hull, who came to football commentary in 1998. He has worked his way in football commentary from British television stations ITV to BT Sport and comments on a range of competitions, including English Premier League, the FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and now the World Cup.

Those often glued to commentaries on DSTv are familiar with his voice. At times, he is straight forward in a matter of fact, as if giving instructions to a direction. Then as the ball dribbles across the pitch from leg to magic leg with amazing precision, it appears as if Drury is converted into a spirit perched on the ball itself and rises and falls with it.

“There will be a couple of minutes on top of the ones that remain”, he intones as the clock tickles away and you wonder whether a team would redeem itself, a decisive goal would be scored or the spoils would be shared between the two sides.

“Daei’s all here, with four Chelsea defenders for company”, he goes on. For those in the know, defenders are no good company. Then as the goal goes in, his voice rises: “What a lively goal, glorious, to die for, just to enjoy. Full stop”.  Or if the ball did not go in, he would say, “It had to go in, but it didn’t”.

His voice competes with the din of the football fans cheering the goal that just went in or the disappointment.

Then the game ends: “A smoked salmon sandwich of a football match if ever there has been one”, he concludes. We have to end it there. Drury follows in the tradition of great football commentators. Is he the greatest one? May be not! Those who have been on the game for a long time remember Martin Tyler, also in the same leagues who for years had football fans glued to their tubes listening to him bring the match to them. For all his troubles he was crowned with many awards including commentator of the decade.

Here, at home, we have had our own share of amazing commentators, golden voices and undying passion. It seems like eons ago when Mambo Mbotela dominated KBC with his football commentary. Gifted with the mastery of Swahili language he would tell you how the “mpira imeenda maji maji” or “imekuwa mwingi” or the player who “ameotea”.

When Joe, JJ, Masiga faced a defender such as Bob Ogolla, Mbotela would scream as if an antelope came face to face with a lion and Mbotela was not sure who was going to have the better of the other. The suspension on the other side of the radio would be just too much. Mbotela would not help, instead he would scream, then instead of telling you whether the ball was inside or not, he would keep on saying “goa…” without ever completing whether it was a goal or not! Then after shouting so much until you believed there was only one place that ball could go—inside the net—Mbotela would simply say “imetoka nje” (off target). What an anti-climax!

Drury one more time at the World Cup in the game Colombia against England: “Colombia’s kaleidoscope of charismatic class, meets new England; modern, fresh and free.” Then Kane taking a penalty, Drury says, “Kane with the eyes of an eagle and the feet of a ballerina.” The camera pans to a little boy holding a placard: “Kane please score a goal”.

This world of football is amazing.

Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language & Performing Arts at Daystar University

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