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BRACKLEY BLOG: COMMENTARY PRONUNCIATIONS

26 May 2016

The legendary commentator gives us more tales from the gantry.


In the latest in a series of light-hearted articles on his career, former national radio and TV football commentator, Peter Brackley, brings us more reflections from the commentary box.

"Don't work with animals or children, they say, and, in some cases, you can even add former footballers to that list!

Over the years, I've worked with plenty of ex-player co-commentators on hundreds of matches and it's fair to say there's been the odd hitch or two along the way, especially when it comes to pronunciations!

David Pleat, for example, may be an outstanding analyst- one of the best in the business in my opinion- but names and places are definitely not his forte.

Calling the Czech Republic, "the Republic of Czechoslavakia" certainly didn't go down too well, nor did naming Benayoun as "Benyanoon", although I can categorically deny that David was the summariser rumoured to have asked the lead commentator what "page nine" meant on the team sheet.

"No, it's not page nine" replied the commentator, "it's the Italian player, Paganini!”

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In fairness to David, he was always very keen to try to pronounce the names correctly, and we would spend some time before the game discussing the potentially tricky ones.

"How Brackers," he might ask after, looking in bewilderment at the team list, “how will I say the Polish goalkeeper's name?"

"Probably like Colin Firth playing the stammering) King George V1 in The Queens Speech”, I'd reply. “But give it a go anyway!"

Ex-Wimbledon manager, Dave Bassett, was another who found names a verbal minefield.

"Shevverlierskio's playing well for Milan," he announced in one game we were covering. "And so is Shevchenko, David", I responded earnestly, while he raised a puzzled eyebrow, blissfully unaware of his faux pas.

People often ask me how the commentators manage to say player names so quickly and accurately (well, most of the time, anyway!), and part of the answer is that we do practise them!

Just repeating the names to ourselves beforehand always helps, especially, for example, if you might have to say later, "what a moment there for Dimetrios Eleftheropolous in denying Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski!”

Not everyone, of course, has the same opinion as to how a name should be pronounced, but commentators, presenters and producers, where possible, do try to agree to be consistent in how a name should be said and anglicise them without being ridiculous( i.e. NOT "Pettitt" for Petit, or "Henry" for Thierry Henry!) is often the best method.

Every now and again, however, a commentator will come up with a new version of a foreign name that he's keen to reveal after "asking the player himself," although even getting it from the horse's mouth doesn't always work. After all, if you ask tennis great Bjorn Borg to pronounce his own name, he'd give you the Swedish version, which is something like "Bee-eera."

Just think how ridiculous you'd sound if you suddenly started called him Bee-eera, when to the British public he will always be Borg!

"It's Marco Von Boshter in Dutch, you know, not Van Basten", an irate viewer e-mailed me once about my pronunciation of the great Netherlands striker on Football Italia.

"I'm sure it is," I replied, “but I'm not Dutch and nor probably are 99.9 per cent of the Channel Four audience!"

Bringing things right up to date, my commentating pal Ian Darke from BT Sport came to visit recently and posed an interesting question.

"If David Villa (double l) is pronouned Vee-ah, and Casillas- Cassee--as,”, suggested this veteran commentator, “why is nobody calling Arsenal's Spanish full back Bellerin (also double l) "Bay-er-in?"

"I've checked with him personally," said Ian, “and it is pronounced "Bayer-in."

Fair point, and Ian has, indeed, duly changed his pronunciation to "Bayer-in.” Let's see, or even hear, now if others follow suit!


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