IndependentSport View: When Live Coverage Just isn’t Live

FANCY watching a live soccer match on TV— and miss all the goals?

That’s pretty possible, do I hear you say? If you need to grab a drink from the fridge or go to the loo during the game you may well miss out.

Well, that’s not exactly the issue here.  

Having stood so firm for so long in my determination not to watch ZBC TV that I had actually forgotten why I chose to do so in the first place, I convinced myself that catching last Saturday’s first live PSL broadcast of the season between Motor Action and Highlanders on a lazy Easter Saturday would not cause much harm.

The picture quality was, needless to say, very dreadful:  if you wanted a better view you had to strain your eyes as if they would just shoot out of their sockets.

But that’s again besides the point. It’s like this: those watching on television like me never got to see how the two goals were scored!

Both goals in the 1-1 draw were missed by the camera (there seemed to be only one camera, from a fixed position!), something I imagine would do extremely well in some award for broadcasting mediocrity if there was one.

When Motor Action scored first through Bhekimpilo Ncube, the poor cameraman was focusing elsewhere. He only made it in time to catch Ncube’s summersault celebration.

At least we will have the benefit of a replay, I thought to myself. But, alas, that was not to be until studio presenter Charles Mabika made an attempt at half time to satisfy our curiosity.

“Let us show you how he did it!” he said. Again came the summersault! Mabika was left with egg on his face.

Staying in the same area with the scorer, I had the privilege of asking him over a drink at the local pub how he had netted. It was a flicked header from a teammate, he said, which he connected with a simple finish past Ariel Sibanda.

As if that wasn’t pathetic enough, the equaliser by Highlanders’ Nqobile Mpala was only half-captured by the camera. To save themselves further blushes, there was no attempt to show the replay.

In the centre of this technical mediocrity, you have to give credit to commentator Admire Taderera’s for his great efforts to instil some life into the broadcast.

Bemoaning the small size of local players compared to others from the continent, the veteran broadcaster exclaimed in Shona something along the lines of “tarisaiwo twumakumbo twawo, havana nyama! (just look at their (players’) scrawny legs, they have little flesh!)

This whole episode got me thinking back to last year when South African sports channel SuperSport abandoned a proposal to beam Zimbabwe’s premiership. SuperSport already run highlight packages of leagues from such countries as Kenya, Zambia and Angola.

I’m not privy to the nature of the deals in these countries. Perhaps they send their own personnel and equipment to the countries to do the highlights.

But if they do rely on the host country, it is no wonder they washed their hands off Zimbabwe before they even started. Not with that kind of horror show that I witnessed last Saturday disguised as live soccer coverage.

It’s a big shame, particularly in this era when television and soccer go hand in hand and where sports commercialisation is driven by such crucial factors as television.

And if you are found wanting in that area then you know serious reform is desperately needed.

BY ENOCK MUCHINJO