English commentator so good he’s compared to Dickens … but there’s just one problem

The Rio Report

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Ian Darke

There has been an endless amount of vitriol poured on the BBC and ITV commentators during this World Cup.

Whether it's been people lambasting ITV's Clive Tyldesley for having the temerity to mis-pronounce a confusing name of a South American player, or the BBC's Jonathan Pearce pillioried for his momentary confusion on whether ball had actually crossed the line or not during the strangest goal of the tournament so far, fans on Twitter have been merciless.

But there is one Englishman whose commentary has received nothing but praise: Ian Darke, described by thousands of people on social media as "the real star of this World Cup".

There's only one problem: you can't actually listen to Darke's commentary if you live in England.

He's the man who commentates on football for ESPN in America - and he has charmed the entire nation with his eloquence, knowledge of the game and game acceptance of the fact that US fans want their commentator to be less than impartial when pulling for the USA.

Darke's commentary can be heard in Britain during the normal Premier League season, incidentally - he works for BT Sport. But to hear his dulcet tones during the World Cup you'd probably need a satellite dish the size of a transit van to pick up one of the channels broadcasting his wit and wisdom from Brazil.

No less an authority than Sports Illustrated have been among the most lavish in their praise: "The World Cup serves as America’s yearly (sic) reminder that we are all deeply, deeply infatuated with Ian Darke. He’s a brilliant commentator," they wrote the other day.

But their praise went beyond that: dubbing him "the poet laureate of sportscasting", they actually decided to compare him to Charles Dickens by means of a hilarious quiz which challenges you to pick out a Darke bon mot from a collection of choice Dickensian phrases.

Here's an example:

Which of these phrases was said by Ian Darke?

  • We are so very humble.
  • The amount of poison and prejudice here is staggering, and quite worrying.
  • Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature.
  • There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.

Truth be told, there are a few touches which make most of the answers fairly straightforward - at least to a British reader. But it's still quite the tribute for the only English commentator not being lambasted by his countrymen.

No doubt if the BBC or ITV give him a job in time for Russia 2018 then fans would find minutiae over which to lambast him after all. But until then he can relax in the knowledge that, uniquely among English commentators in Brazil, he has come out of the tournament in credit.

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