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World Cup has taken football commentary to another level

L-R: Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo, Stewart Mutebi Jr and John Vianney Nsimbe in studio doing commentary during the World Cup

L-R: Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo, Stewart Mutebi Jr and John Vianney Nsimbe in studio doing commentary during the World Cup

The 2022 World Cup, which came to a conclusion at the weekend had its fair share awe-inspiring and nail-biting moments.

Such situations are best brought out by commentators, whose knowledge of the game is laid bare for the viewers to appreciate. Behind the thrills and spills on the pitch has been a revolution in local commentary after DStv added Luganda commentary to its catalogue. As NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI writes, the phenomenon has been met with fascinating experiences from both fans and commentators.

Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo describes the experience of television commentary as exhausting; John Vianney Nsimbe says it is nerve-wracking while Stewart Kimera finds it challenging.

These are some of the Luganda commentators that have kept football fans on tenterhooks over the past few weeks of the 2022 World Cup.

“I take a meal before and after the match because shouting myself hoarse for an entire match makes me really hungry,” says Kigongo.
“I have previously done TV commentary for rugby and cricket but overall this is a worthwhile experience that has made me a well-rounded person because I have challenged myself to greater heights. With radio, you can get away with an error or mistake but there is no room for that with TV, which requires more research and understanding of the game.”

In a bid to build a solid fan base among football fans, DStv added Luganda to its catalogue of language commentaries and this has been met with groundbreaking experience.

FANS’ EXPERIENCE

Alex Kiguli, a mechanic based in Namirembe, says it has been a worthwhile experience to follow World Cup proceedings while listening to his favourite Luganda commentators.

“I’m well-versed with English commentary but when I hear our own and their humour, it hits home and makes for a worthy experience. Luganda commentary relates to my daily experience and make watching World Cup matches all more exciting. It provides room for banter with colleagues because what is said resonates with our daily ways of life,” he says.

On the other hand, Dan Tumwesigye, a golfing caddie at Uganda Golf Club at Kitante, says whereas the Luganda commentary is more arousing, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to timing.

“I have enjoyed the World Cup Luganda commentary but what I have found irritating is that the commentary is about two seconds late after the action,” he says. “It is frustrating and they [DStv] need to upgrade their technology to be at par with the TV footage.”

THE CONCEPT

To be chosen as a commentator is, of course, quite an accolade in itself. Rinaldi Jamugisa, the public relations and communications manager of MultiChoice Uganda, says the local commentary innovation was conceived as a way to improve customers’ viewing experience.

“Our aim is always to deliver a front-row view of superior content and in a language most Ugandans understand. This is part of our hyperlocal strategy of pioneering everything local from our culture to languages. Luganda is understood by a wide populous in the country and that is why but had it as a language option to bring all 64 games of the tournament on DStv and GOtv's Supersport channels," he says.

Commentators Stewart Mutebi Jr (R) and Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo in studio

TV Vs RADIO COMMENTARY

For years, radio commentators have been known to exaggerate the action on the pitch in order to arouse listeners’ interest. Riding on the wave of a underlying simulated on-field recording of fans in a stadium, listeners are almost entire reliant on the commentator’s views but the live broadcast of matches has changed the equation.

Peace Diana Bagala is the sole female commentator for the World Cup and her experience has been mind-boggling.

“At first, I thought I was going to replicate what I do on radio but it became apparent to me that I had to up my game,” she says.

“Radio commentary is much easier because as the commentator, you are the eyes of the listeners but when it comes to television, you need to have more information about the game and the players,” she says.

“What this meant is that I spent some sleepless nights researching about the games in order to be sharp and precise during the commentary. It is a tedious task that I had never experienced before.”

On his part, Nsimbe, a veteran of football commentary for more than 20 years, says this World Cup has offered a refreshing experience.

“It is one thing to commentate on the mic to an audience that cannot see the game but when you know millions of viewers are watching, you have to up your game. You have to know when to let the game flow and to time moments to remind the viewers about the permutations of the game. It is not easy but this World Cup has offered me an opportunity to up my game,” he says.

THE TRICKY MOMENTS

The usage of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in this World Cup has made things a bit tricky for commentators, who have to express their views in-between VAR decisions.

“VAR has really tested our knowledge of the game because in the one minute before the referee gives a verdict, I am supposed to guide the viewers,” says Kigongo.

“I had a hard time when Cristiano Ronaldo won a penalty against Ghana because I was sure it wasn’t a penalty.”

That’s the only moment that had him in shivers. He also endured a tricky situation commentating games involving Switzerland because the name of their focal striker [Breel Embolo] doesn’t resonate well in Luganda.

[The surname is a vulgar word for a male private part in Luganda]

“Some of my colleagues preferred to simply call him Breel but the rule in commentary is that players have to be pronounced by their surnames and I only felt it after mentioning his name,” he says.

Well, it is just a few days to go before the end of the World Cup but it goes without saying that for many, the most telling aspect of the tournament is the introduction of Luganda commentary and its humorous approach that has kept many football enthusiasts glued to the televisions.

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