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Football TV’s serious and silly shows

How you consume your football probably defines exactly what kind of football fan you are. The kind of football fan you are – a serious existential thinker who wants to understand why football’s possession game is some kind of play of human survival? A couch potato who can’t pronounce footballers’ names with more than two syllables in them? A merchandise-loving fan who will endlessly blame the referee’s positioning for a team conceding a goal? Or a casual guy who appreciates greeting his buddies at the footy?- may be indicated by the kind of football TV shows you watch. 

The range of football TV is broad. In the UK, Sky lead the way. You can watch Soccer AM, in which minor popstars and forgotten footballers get the chance to score from a volley in front of a couple morning-enthusiastic fans. You can watch The Transfer Show, in which a few young entrepreneurial-looking people discuss the ins and outs of every transfer story they actually might not know that much about. You used to be able to watch Sunday Supplement, in which prominent newspaper journalists with no experience in football but with years of education and training in research and in the humanities would theorise the weekly climate of football.  

Sky’s most popular football TV show, however, is surely Monday Night Football. The landmark pre-match TV show, which is probably more significant than the game being broadcast itself, mainly involves the two great pundits, or perhaps even voices, of our age, didn’t-learn-Spanish-in-Valencia Gary Neville and I’m-recoiling-watching-that Jamie Carragher, alongside the composed mediator that is Dave Jones. 

Monday Night Football combines the best of football- intricate analysis, exciting season reviews, banter, and a deep questioning of some of the sport’s issues. Guests such as Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Claudio Ranieri have given the show real zeal. Comments on human rights (as most recently with Newcastle), late-stage capitalism, racism, and more have given the show some real pedigree. It has effectively driven Neville and Carragher’s own fame as critics of football, and of other societal issues, to levels which almost certainly surpass their fame for being ex-footballers. Earlier this year, it felt as though the whole country took notice of their impassioned rants against Project Big Picture and the ESL; they somewhat became the voice-bearers for the country’s political problems in sport. A show that was probably foreshadowed by the great success of Saint and Greavsie in the late 80s and early 90s, Monday Night Football has become one of the country’s most important ways of encouraging football fans to think. 

However, beneath the shadows of Monday Night Football lies a strange show that ridiculously, bombastically, and insanely deals with some of the same matters as MNF. El Chiringuito de Jugones is Spain’s football telenovela, hosted by self-indulgent Josep Pedrerol, who cares for nothing but Real Madrid’s success. Most of the other pundits, if you can call them that, on the show support Real Madrid as well, or Barcelona. The show is hysterical, mad, consisting of death threats, anxiety attacks, and even some slapstick fighting. There is also the occassional walkout, and they make Piers Morgan’s walkout from GMB look lame. 

For all the silliness of the show, all the despairing “tic tac” mutters from Josep Pedrerol hoping to get Mbappe into Real Madrid, even for it managing to somehow be a kind of stage-enactment of all the abuse on Twitter, the late-night show has attracted a number of important guests. The most significant of them all was Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, who appeared the night after the ESL was announced online. The point of joke for El Chiringuito is over. Despite its façade of high entertainment and humour, the TV show revealed its journalistic seriousness. 

Given the English football fan’s manic passion for football, and the growing distance between the Premier League and other teams in the country, it would not be a surprise to see a form of this show on our TVs one day- one which takes itself seriously though it seems to be a joke. An appetite for this kind of football TV in the UK could very much depend on whether MNF continues to withstand banality and repetition. 

Image: Steindy via Wikimedia Commons

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