TV coverage of football in Japan, as I have touched upon before, has many problems. Cutting to commercials during a penalty-shoot-out was not something I had ever expected though.
The constant repetition of the same commercials at halftime and inbetween games I can make my peace with (I have grown up watching the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League after all). The irritating slogans that keep popping up to remind me who is sponsoring the show – as if it needed reinforcing – are also something that I have now come to expect of football coverage on TV in Japan. Cutting off in the middle, actually, just before the very end of, a penalty shoot-out for the ad-break, however, is absolutely ridiculous.
For anybody who missed it (although perhaps that’s the wrong turn of phrase, we all missed it), let me provide a brief recap.
Risshodai Shonan and Takigawa Ni had played out a tense semifinal to see who would join Kumiyama in the final of the 2011 All Japan High School tournament and, just as in Kumiyama’s semifinal with Ryutsu Keizaidai Kashiwa, the game had progressed to a penalty shoot-out.
Unlike the first match – which had produced four goals in regulation time and was concluded efficiently before Kumiyama had to take their fifth penalty – the second did not feature the sharpest of shooting. Takuo Ikeda and Taiki Katou had both missed open goals in the final five minutes for Risshodai and although they had gone someway to making up for those errors by converting their penalty kicks, neither side was able to end the match.
With the score still tied after the eighth round of spot kicks I was on the edge of my seat (well my bed), engrossed in the natural drama of the shoot-out.
And then it disappeared. First the pictures were submerged under an advert for a copy company (I mean, how many copy companies are there? Do they really need to advertise anyway?), and then, with the commentators still jabbering excitedly away, they cut entirely to a commercial break.
‘You’re kidding, right?’ I said (although I think I used slightly rougher language), before leaping up and frantically changing the channels. Nothing. The game hadn’t been shifted to a different channel, it was just gone. With, as it turned out, just two more kicks to go. What’s that, 60 seconds, perhaps? All because the schedule dictated that the show must take a break at that point.
Now, I am often frustrated by television coverage of football in Japan (something I will undoubtedly discuss here at a later date). My most frequent complaint is that it all too often refuses to discuss controversial events – with penalty decisions, red cards and diving rarely, if ever, addressed. While this is annoying, to cut a live sporting event off right before its conclusion is just incredible. Why not delay the commercials until the game had ended?
Something similar did happen in England a couple of years ago, when Everton youngster Dan Gosling’s extra-time winner against Liverpool in an FA Cup replay was missed by the viewing public as the channel, ITV, cut to an advert for tic-tacs.
This was down to a technical fault rather than having been a conscious decision on the part of the programme-makers though – and it caused quite a stir, provoking over 1,000 complaints within 24 hours and drawing an apology from the executive chairman of the channel, who said:
“As a football fan myself I was glued to the match and was as disappointed as anyone to miss the goal. [The] glitch was inexcusable and we are awaiting the results of our technical inquiry so we can put in place stringent procedures to address this.”
Gosling’s goal, like the conclusion to the Takigawa-Risshodai shoot-out, was shown in replays once coverage continued, but this is just not the same as seeing it live, especially when you have become so gripped by the action.
I am sure nobody from NTV – who were airing the game – has declared the decision ‘inexcusable’, and it is disappointing that such an exciting day of football was spoiled by something that could so easily have been prevented.
I certainly learned a lesson from my semifinal experience and didn’t take any risks with the final; instead of sitting in front of the TV I headed to Kokuritsu where I enjoyed all eight goals live and uninterrupted.