Together in Olympiad Dreams

And so, fittingly, David Beckham’s career ended with a throwaway line at the end of a television interview. Fabio Capello, standing awkwardly in the stripped down ITV set of littered lighting rigs and television sets, shrugged his shoulders without perhaps understanding how often that pose would reverberate across the world. “A little too old, I think,” he sighed, and then back to the studio. What do you say, as Johnny Logan would have put it, when words are not enough?

It had all the atmosphere of a Big Brother “surprise eviction”, a suitable end to a man whose football career ran parallel with the explosion in football’s popularity revival; the early dawn of the Premiership, Euro1996 – all came at Beckham’s time, and he followed the celebrity route of ‘Cool Britannia’ for all that it was worth and more.

For Beckham’s greatest hits DVD will inevitably feature images far removed from his days as floppy-haired posterboy for Manchester United; from the his-and-hers thrones on which he and Victoria were married to the endless underwear commercials.

The loss of “late” Beckham’s dead-ball specialities to England may be a gain picked up by another national side, one whose very existence is probably as contentious as some of Golden Balls’ fashion choices. For the man whose very career veered off tangent as precisely as a curled freekick (albeit not perhaps with as much cheer) could well have a role as coach of Great Britain’s Olympic football team.

Due to inane and archaic rules too dull even for me to wander into, Great Britain can only take part in the Olympic football tournament as a team under that name and the Union Flag, although protests from Scotland and Wales leaves the side currently managerless and open to players only from England and Northern Ireland. A side led by Beckham would ensure the press – for whom Olympic football is one of the marginal sports nobody covers, like shooting and swimming and anything outside the athletics track – would give coverage to a side for which Beckham would be too old to captain. And what better send off than the overblown, over-priced, other worldly cuckoo-banana land of the Olympic Games?

History will be kind to Becks – every retrospective will focus on the halfway line goal against Wimbledon and the important Greece goal with more reverence than the Argentina sending off or Hollywood glamour chasing – but ultimately he will be remembered as one of many England youngsters for whom Fate decided would be a flawed talent. Football is littered with them, some never return from desperate introspection and others earn millions as the starman standby, making cameo appearances for the good of sponsors and sports editors. Olympic glory, perhaps the most suitable of all, awaits the man whose football career began and ended with a camera lens trained straight down the eyes…

3D in the round

“…and you don’t get Andy Gray as a commentator…”

The marketing bods at SKY are doing an alright job pushing their 3D television coverage of Premier League football, seeing as the technological limitations are still quite notable.

(Not least, I must say, the fact that the Guinness branded shaded glasses caused the 40 of us watching the single television screen look like we were hanging around for the first rehearsal of the “television scene” from Willy Wonka…)

The negative points first, then. Unless you’re one of those rabid anti-everything types, SKY are not to blame for the Manc derby being such an underwhelming match, notable only for the midfield keep-ball and plentiful Zamorian chances on goal. Well, okay, maybe in the broader sense they are, but that’s a topic for another day…Negative points, then, and I start with the general selling point of 3D broadcasting; that an entire ninety minutes of football can be viewed as though the sci-fi futurists of the 1960s have finally been proven right.

More often than not the effect did not work. Some people have suggested it may have something to do with my short-sight, or the difference in shape between the Guinness branded 3D specs and my own, so there’s a technological issue right there that could be more prohibitive than the developers imagined. I am not entirely convinced, however, for I cannot put my hands on acres of newsprint from similarly disadvantaged glasses wearers moaning about not getting the full Avatar experience, so until then, I reserve judgement…

Football has never suited single fixed-cameras (I’m looking at you, ITV FA Cup coverage directors). It became pretty obvious that swift and often camera movements took away some of the effect; for example just when I saw a group of players on the left wing float above the screen, an unconscious correction of my eye-line took the image away. The only very impressive effects came from fixed camera shots of corners and free kicks taken just outside the penalty area, with the goalposts and corner flags seemingly aiming themselves at pint-glasses and within door frames.

The positive conclusions come from all these decently received experiences – above all, the team sheets and team layouts, which floated above the screen looking more decent and convincing than just about anything else until the final whistle.

(No, I don’t mean that ruddy kiss…)

3D broadcasting has not made any great strides. More a few uncertain side-steps. It seems to currently be at its best with static and slow tracking shots. Any sudden and swift movement loses the magic (and how many times has that been a problem in my private life…)

To ensure 3D doesn’t go the way of Minidiscs and Sodastream, I would suggest more work be done to improve both static and swift motion camera movements. And with a the Leaders Debate coming up on Thursday, SKY have a great chance to try it out this week.

We’d all tune in to see Gordon Brown appear to float under our front room lights like a hanged banker….wouldn’t we ?

playing on the right

Breathless, verbless news coverage met me this morning. BECKHAM INJURY SHOCK WORLD CUP LATEST.

I had assumed – expert on right-sided midfielders that I am not – that common consensus amongst front-room Fabios had agreed upon the notion of Beckham barely featuring in South Africa at all, almost to the point of inventing a Walcott/Wright-Phillips hybrid capable of combining pace with accuracy of crosses. Until such a splice actually exists – no, don’t think too much on that either – I will continue to largely sit out the 2010 equivalent of the mid-90s baroom discourse on “Why the left in English football is an almost impossible position to fill”.

If the sight of both Beckham and former England posterboy Michael Owen limping off with injuries on the cusp of middle age is not too much of a reality check for people (don’t….just don’t….), I found solace and reality all bundled together in a footballing context down at the humble setting of the Unibond Premier league. While my own club Burscough continue to suffer from successive poundings and High Court nail-biting, two places below the plucky stalwarts from Durham FC make things all the better to be alive.

In short, Durham beating FC United of Manchester 2-1 at Gigg Lane may not seem to much to make life seem nicer in a roundabout, barely tangible way. However the details really do shine a big light of reality on the hyperactive, hypereality of Premier League excess and showboating celebs. Durham barely have the right to exist, stripped of their sponsors and funding after an FA ruling against plastic pitches and “University teams”. With almost 30 games of this season gone, Durham had a goal difference of minus-120, not even a draw to their name, and the ignominy of a 6-point deduction for pulling the “Sunday League trick” of registering a player under a false name. That Durham won at all is worth celebrating; that their fans have stuck by them through cricket score drummings with Newcastle or Sunderland or Middlesbrough or even Conference side Gateshead on their doorstep is worth more than just a pint lifted to the skies. Durham sum up far more than a romantic notion of “real” football; they did what they could over a very hard season to brush themselves down, offering local teenagers the chance to play against semi-pro and ex-League players, and did so every week from Kendal in the north to King’s Lynn in the south with a good natured smile on their face every time.

King’s Lynn, of course, were wound up for debts far less than the hourly wage bill of Manchester United. That Durham got their first ever win against FC United of Manchester surely adds that extra line of black irony to the story. Long may Durham have success when the inevitable relegation occurs.

I am no more a football “purist” than I am a real-ale evangalist. It is just refreshing to have moments away from the big brands and tiresome Big 4 soap operas. Long may the lower leagues offer this break from the ‘norm’.