The Israeli football fan tends to be quite a discerning and knowledgeable person. This is particularly true when it comes to the European Champions League, club football’s most prestigious and lucrative competition. Israeli’s often deride the quality of their own domestic leagues and so look to European competitions to get their fix of the beautiful game played with pace, finesse and skill.
Most of the bars in Tel Aviv are bustling on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when there is a Champions League game, with Israeli’s eager to watch their heroes, the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world, ply their trade. You settle down in your seat, discuss your predictions for the game ahead and you hear the iconic UEFA Champions League anthem ring out, then what? Sadly then you get a massive disappointment but I don’t mean the game itself.
The presentation of football on Israeli TV is nothing short of embarrassing. Worse than that, it’s close to insultingly bad. It bears more resemblance to a cabaret show or something one might see on “Arutz Hayeledim” (the Children’s Channel). Fancy dress, comedy glasses and wigs are more commonplace in the studio than expert analysis or 3D graphics.
I watch a lot of English Premier League football and am accustomed to pre-match and half time analysis, focussed on the crucial aspects of the game. The 15 minute half time break would include a deep analysis of the first half, replete with multiple replays of key incidents augmented by the latest computer graphics to help the viewer get the fullest possible sense of what is happening in the game he is watching.
Meanwhile in Israel, the half time analysis consists of one former player making a few generic comments, the Host trying to crack a few funnies, a live studio audience dressed up for and acting like they are in a pantomime and an off-site crew in a provincial town surrounded by people in replica kits who seem to just keep shouting the name of their favourite player.
While it may seem trivial, I perceive a tragedy here. If Israeli’s want their own leagues to improve, it wouldn’t hurt for Israeli kids to grow up with high quality analysis of the games they are watching. It’s hard to see how anyone’s knowledge or tactical awareness can be improved by watching a Presenter in a spinning bow tie surrounded by people in Beersheba chanting “Messi, Messi” or “Yalla Barcelona”.
I think the Israeli football fan deserves better. Living in such an intelligent and hi-tech country, wouldn’t it be nice if Israeli coverage became a global leader with technology and insight replacing pantomime and slapstick? Though likely to take a generation, a change in the way football is presented in Israel might just have a positive knock on effect on the quality of football played here.