How do they do it? When confronted with a dramatic situation for our favorite club or a stressful moment in an engaging match, we usually regress to unintelligible sounds or a series of annoying semi-connected syllables. Broadcasters, conversely, not only need to keep their cool and convey the moment, but transmit the gravity of what is going on. How they do that separates the greats from the greatest.

Whether it’s Aggggueeeeeeerrrrrooooooo or “your boys took a hell of a beating,” the famous calls of soccer history become as famous as the moment itself. It should not be a surprise why. The ability to “sum it all up” (to borrow another Martin Tyler phrase) and capture the moment is not easy for many of the reasons we outlined. For many US fans, for example, “go go USA!” still brings up emotions of watching Landon Donovan score even just hearing Ian Darke’s exclamation. 

Veteran journalist Charlie Eccleshare collects some of the most famous soccer calls and puts them together in a tight anthology entitled, The Beautiful Poetry of Football Commentary. Much like the broadcasters he highlights, his prose is brief and to the point. The book takes a famous call and he gives a few sentences explaining why that call is famous. 

At around 150 pages, you can pick up this book and read it in about an hour. But if you witnessed many of these matches or are familiar with the calls, it may take a while longer as you relive the memory of the match in your head. With the Martin Tyler “Aguero” call, I paused for a few minutes replaying in my mind where I was when the goal happened and how I felt as an interested neutral. 

Similarly, I did the same for another Martin Tyler call – my favorite – from Tony Adams’ 1998 goal. Eccleshare explains why this brief call was so appropriate – the wording reflected the change from “boring boring Arsenal” to the culmination of Arsene Wenger’s stylish play, using two players epitomizing the change. His final line – that sums it all up – really means both the goal, season, and Wenger renaissance.

The Beautiful Poetry of Football Commentary: In depth

The book covers a long time period, going as far back as 1938. As someone not as football experienced as others, I got to learn about some calls I had never heard or seen. A few favorites I discovered included John Motson’s call of Wimbledon’s upset of Liverpool (Crazy Gang v. Culture Club), Kenneth Wolstenholme’s call of England’s 1966 World Cup victory (They think it’s all over… it is now), and Barry Davies’ call of that Maradona goal against England (He won’t need any of them).

Much like the players they are describing, these broadcasters all rose to the moment to perfectly capture what a fan of the game should feel.

As mentioned, The Beautiful Poetry of Football Commentary is a short book but a fun read.

I recommend this for fans who appreciate the coverage of matches and want something on their shelf as a fun soccer book palate cleanser. Eccleshare did a great job of capturing why the broadcaster is important and how they add to those famous moments. And he did it without extraneous wording – just like his subjects.

Photo: Imago