In the sporting field it’s hardly surprising that absolute loyalty is required of the French soccer commentator whose role is to provide constant proof that he fully shares the 150% commitment of the average viewer to his favourites. A supreme example of this ideal type of commentator was provided by the late Thierry Roland whose partisan devotion to the French soccer cause not only endeared him to his sporting public but has made of him a legendary figure of football commentary. Just one example of his sectarian allegiance was supplied by an international match I watched on T.V. some time ago.
It is, of course, normal that the elevated position of a T.V. soccer commentator should sometimes give him a far better vision of the game than its arbitrator who can, in all fairness, on occasions be unsighted. At one point in an international soccer match (which had a high level of what is commonly termed ‘physical commitment’), a defender from the foreign team committed a disgraceful foul on a French forward, which the referee failed to notice. ‘Foul, monsieur l’arbitre, foul!’ Monsieur Roland howled into his microphone. A few minutes later a French defender was guilty of what could possibly have been an even worse foul on a foreign attacker, which the referee (he must have been English) once again seemed not to notice. ‘Oh, the referee is nearer than me!’ Monsieur Roland calmly declared.
On another occasion during a France-Bulgaria soccer match, so great was this same commentator’s passionate commitment to the French cause, and so vigorous his hostility to the referee (who had just proved he was doing his best to deny the French a just victory by awarding a penalty to the opposing team), that in a moment of uncontrollable fury he announced to millions of viewers: ‘Monsieur Foot, vous êtes un salaud!’ (Monsieur Foot you’re a bastard) . This considerably increased his popularity with the French sporting public: for in view of the hundreds of supportive letters received, the T.V. channel which employed him announced that previously-envisaged sanctions would not be taken. And surprisingly, the referee in question was Scottish, not English.
Indeed, a whole book could be devoted to the sporting comments of Thierry Roland, and the following constitute just a short selection of his more memorable pronouncements:
‘Don’t you think we could have found something better than a Tunisian to referee a match of this importance?’
Surprisingly, this remark was prompted by the famous goal scored by Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ – which the referee failed to see – during a World Cup soccer match between England and Argentina (Thierry Roland was a great Anglophile). So much did it pose a threat to Franco-Tunisian relations that the French ambassador was obliged to offer his apologies to the then Tunisian Prime Minister, Ben Ali.
‘Koreans are all alike … they all measure 5’8” and they’ve all got brown hair.’
A comment made during a France-South Korea World Cup preparation match. During the match, in reply to Larqué’s astute observation that a lot of South Korean players were called ‘Lee,’ he retorted: ‘Since there are several ‘Lees’ (lit = bed), we can put them all together in the same bedroom.’
Other legendary remarks include, ‘Those two won’t spend their holidays together!’ ‘The flies have changed donkeys,’ And, when France won the 2002 World Cup, ‘Now we can all die in peace … but as late as possible!’ Unfortunately, his wish hardly came true as he departed our planet at the relatively premature age of 74.