A pensive Arsene Wenger fiddling with his necktie. A poker-faced Alex Ferguson chewing vigorously on his gum. Seen the previous Sunday, at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Fast-forward a week and across several time zones. Replace the Arsenal and Manchester United bosses with Subhash Bhowmick and Aloke Mukherjee as the dugout denizens. Seen this Sunday, at Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Calcutta.
Same camera angles, similar clarity of coverage. The Chlor-Mint IFA Shield may be as similar to the Barclaycard Premiership in terms of quality profile or showbiz value as Ruud van Nistelrooy is to Dipankar Roy. But, vignettes from these two high-voltage clashes beamed live into our drawing rooms on successive Sundays, did more than throw up parallels between two traditional rivalries in a game we picked up from the British.
This return of live TV, portraying the “global language of soccer passion”, could well be the kick-off to raising the profile of the game. “Yes, we would like to show Calcutta soccer in a good light by adding English Premier League-like values to our coverage to make it as professional as possible,” said Huw Bevan, executive producer, ESPN-STAR Sports, marshalling his crew at the giant-bowl stadium he likened to Nou Camp, Barcelona.
The Welshman, in charge of the unit that produced the pan-Asia live telecast of Sunday’s final, explained how TV coverage drives a sport forward: “The more informed you are about the product you are watching, the more you can get into it.” Bevan, who has years of experience in covering the English Premier League, besides international cricket and rugby, had initiated the BBC move to resurrect ice hockey as a TV sport in the UK in the early nineties. “Something similar could be done with Calcutta football and it should be less of a challenge, since this city already has a tradition steeped in soccer.”
The IFA Shield final’s “education and entertainment package” was embellished with interviews, player profiles, dressing-room shots, preparation reports, insights and off-pitch colour stories. On the pitch, the ESPN team used nine camera positions, spread geographically across the ground, besides roving cameras along the sidelines to catch close-ups and the bench mood. “We are extremely happy with the facilities at this mammoth edifice. Packed to the rafters, it can surely match the Nou Camp. And it probably has the longest walk from the dressing rooms out onto the pitch,” smiled the Ryan Giggs fan from Cardiff.