¡Gooooooooooooooool! · 19 November 2022

[It is the men’s World Cup time again, so I thought I would pull out an old piece of writing that had not yet seen the light of day.]

It might sound weird, but there are times when I wish I was watching the FIFA World Cup soccer matches on a channel where they did not speak English.

I remember watching World Cup soccer as a kid. We watched matches at Grandma and Grandpa’s on a black and white TV. It was all that we really needed to watch those great matches. Nobody really understood soccer in those days (even the commentators), but we understood that we were watching something incredible. Especially if Pelé was playing.

As I got older, I remember watching Soccer Made in Germany on PBS. We did not watch it all the time, but it was good stuff. But certainly not as exciting as watching the World Cup. (Which, now that I think about it, we may not have watched as kids.) Especially since the commentators really just seemed to be trying to educate us about the sport.

As an adult, I have not watched much soccer. Partly because I like to play rather than watch any sport. But part of it is also because much of the announcing is somewhat pedestrian. It is like listening to somebody comment on watching somebody else walking. (“Oh, he better watch out. There is a crack coming.”) Sure, they talk about the game and quote statistics about this player and that player. When it comes down to it though, it is not all that exciting to hear about this player passing to that player. Especially when some commentators sound so very ho hum about it all.

But then I watched a few matches on a Spanish-speaking channel. ¡Ay, caramba! It was like watching a different sport. The commentators were animated about every pass, every shot, every ¡Gooooooooooooooooooooooooool!

I was only watching the Spanish-speaking channel because there was not an English-speaking channel broadcasting the game I wanted to watch, but I was hooked. I was spoiled by those few games. Now, even though I understand little Spanish, I would rather watch a soccer match broadcast in Spanish. They are just so passionate about the sport, and it shows in their commentary. Commentary that I do not even understand, but certainly appreciate.

I thought it would be nice if any of those Spanish-speaking broadcasters would broadcast over the airwaves, especially soccer matches. Not that the current broadcasters are not doing a fine job. They are. The different World Cup commentators are much more passionate about the sport and each particular game than they have been before. Certainly more animated than those back in the late seventies and early eighties calling Soccer Made in Germany. And much more knowledgeable than those commentators we heard on those old black and white broadcasts in the early seventies. But there is just something about the passion of those Spanish-speaking commentators. During a World Cup or any match.

I was thinking about those passionate commentators and about watching the 2018 World Cup matches on a Spanish-speaking channel, when lo and behold, I watched a match with a normally Spanish-speaking pair. Jorge Pérez-Navarro and Mariano Trujillo were calling the Panama vs. Tunisia game in English.

If you were to look at the match objectively, there should have been no passion. There was nothing at stake in the game. Neither team had qualified for the knock-out stage of the tournament. The announcers kept saying that they were playing for pride and for their countries and for the love of the game. But the two called the game like it was the final. They were animated. They were passionate. I loved their accents. Mariano Trujillo played for the Mexican national team and offered insights about playing against some of the players from Panama. He and Jorge Pérez-Navarro were great together as they sparred about which goalie is the greatest in Central America. It was entertaining to listen to the pair.

And then I heard it.

It was the thirty-third minute of the match. Jorge Pérez-Navarro shouted, “¡Gooooooooooooooooooooooooool!” I could not believe my ears. It was what had been missing from my 2018 World Cup watching experience. It had been what I had been missing most of my soccer watching life. And I got to hear it two more times during the game. I was ecstatic watching what many called a meaningless game. It was not meaningless to the players, their fans, and certainly not to the game’s commentators.

I know it sounds weird, but I would like to hear a little more life in the commentators’ voices during the World Cup matches. Spanish-speaking or not. I wish they would all have the passion of Jorge Pérez-Navarro, Mariano Trujillo, and others. But when it comes right down to it, I really just wish they would all have some signature call of a single word. A word seemingly said until the commentator runs out of breath. A word said after every score by every single player.


© 2022 Michael T. Miyoshi

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