Ross Fletcher arrived in Seattle after a career at BBC Radio Derby in the East Midlands of England.
Although his main job for his current MLS employers is to call the live action, Fletcher has been keeping active talking about the sport in North America for listeners elsewhere. He still works for BBC Radio 5 Live on their World Football Phone-In, and was also invited to be on the panel who selected which commentating clips entered the National Football Museum in the UK.
He also covered this year’s London Olympics for the Olympic Broadcasting Services.
In his first article for Prost Amerika, Fletcher talks about the differences between calling football across the globe and how radio differs from television.
And most of all about the global differences in the way his fellow artisans say that one word that means so much to us all .. GOOOOOOOOOOAL ………………
Calling GOAL Differs Across the Globe
by Ross Fletcher
It is just four letters long. It is the simplest of words, a single syllable, but it is the one which every soccer play-by-play announcer simply has to have stored in their varied vocabulary.
It is the word that in an instant, is guaranteed to change everybody’s mood. Goal.
This is my first year in Seattle covering Major League Soccer, having spent 16 years with the revered BBC in the UK. During that time I’ve commentated on over 450 matches, from stadiums with just 350 people inside, to the hallowed Wembley national stadium where nearly 80,000 were crammed one row on top of the other.
No matter whatever and wherever the occasion, saying that word has an equal effect on those watching or listening.
Broadcasting can be a wonderfully expressive medium and with soccer being a global game, I am fascinated to hear how it is done around the world. The word ‘goal’ has probably been punched out a thousand different ways on airwaves from Buenos Aires to Bulgaria. I’ve probably said it myself a hundred different ways. From the simple tap in ‘and here comes Smith, around the goalkeeper and he slots it home for an easy goal’ to a 35 yard screamer ‘Smith…..what a GOAL’.
Us Brits are often known for being a little, shall we say, reserved at times. Yet when it comes to soccer broadcasting, the passion is clearly evident. There has been many a day when I’ve got to half time in a match and realized my voice is going. The problem? Too many of those pesky ‘goal’ calls. Time to reach for a lozenge.
I’d last no longer than five minutes in Brazil though. Their commentators are simply a league above when it comes to describing the goal moment. If you have never heard a Brazilian announcer then I urge you to get on to a video sharing site and type in ‘goal Brazilian commentator’. Hours of fun. The word ‘goal’ is key to it all. Or should I say the word ‘goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal’ is key to it all. Do that internet thing, you’ll know what I mean.
There are variations along the same theme.
Mexico and Spain share the Brazilian flavor. Most European broadcasts are more closely aligned to the British way. There are probably some out there that are a mix of the two.
The one recurring theme is the use of the word itself. Yet you don’t always hear it and despite what I’ve said above, it’s not always essential.
That is more often true when it comes to a television broadcast. The reasoning is simple; if you are watching the game and you see the ball go in to the net, then you know a goal has been scored – the announcer doesn’t need to tell you what you have just witnessed with your own eyes.
That is not to say that using ‘goal’ is unnecessary, for all of the reasons I have already stated. When it comes to a radio commentary, it is a different kettle of fish. The broadcaster is the eyes and the ears of the listener.
They are there to paint a picture of the action and the occasion – from the score, to which team has possession, the player in possession, where they are on the field, to where they are heading, who the pass is made to and how that pass is made. All are crucial elements.
None though, is more important than delivering the news that a goal has gone in. The crescendo of the crowd is a heavy hint but the rasp of the announcer as the ball crosses the line is critical. The great commentators will let you know instantly what has happened. Others will leave you hanging on for a few seconds.
You may wonder whether my style has changed since moving ‘across the pond’. The answer is not really. There is different terminology in the States, particularly the emphasis on assists but the basics of the game are the same, as they are right across the world. Defenders are the ones who primarily defend, strikers are the ones who generally attack.
For my part, as long as I’m letting you know there’s been a goal, I know I’m at least half way there. How to garnish it is a whole other ball game.