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Home: All Other Football Interests: All other football:
25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia'

 



oxpete
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25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' Can't Post or Reply Privately

This coming Wednesday is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the very first addition of Channel 4's 'Football Italia' show, their excellent televising of Serie A hosted by James Richardson that started on Sunday 6th September 1992 with Sampdoria 3 Lazio 3.

With all the football on television these days, it is easy to forget quite how impressive and revolutionary this coverage looked twenty-five years ago, as well as how little football there was on terrestrial telly. Back in 1992, SKY had just bought the rights for Premiership coverage for an eyewatering 191million at a time when there were fewer than a million satellite dish subscribers in the country, and this was just three years after the famous Liverpool v. Arsenal title decider (that even at the time felt like a one-off, with no hint as to when the next domestic showing on telly might be). The BBC's Match Of The Day was still hosted by leisurely Des Lynam and his cardboard-cutout sidekick Trevor 'Sitting-On-The-Fence' Brooking, while ITV had only just given the bullet to Saint & Greavsie's string of mildly-xenophobic Jimmy Tarbuck-rejected jokes and puns based on their mistrust of football in Europe. UK television coverage of football really didn't seem to have moved on very much at all over the previous few years - seven years before, in 1985, we'd been treated to Terry Wogan and Jimmy Hill cracking gags while news of the Heysel Stadium riot began to filter through, and it seemed as if nobody had really got over the deep embarrassment. And on the pitch, Liverpool had only just been allowed back into European competition a year after the rest of English football. Despite what they're saying in their own 25th anniversary celebrations at the moment, even the start of SKY's coverage of the Premiership was conformist and predictable. Keys and Gray were no more than Saint & Greavsie with a few more high-tech gizmos and different cliches to pick on. And the introduction of on-pitch dancing-girls and parachutists looked as mediocre then as it does now.

And yet, despite all of SKY's fireworks (both actual and financial), the greatest English footballer of the era wasn't even playing in the Premiership - Paul Gascoigne was instead spending most of his days on a treatment table in Rome. The Chrysalis television production company - one of the many imaginative independents who arrived in the wake of the foundation of Channel 4 - were at the time making a documentary about Gascoigne's injury, when producer Neil Duncanson noticed that the rights to televise Serie A were available at a bargain price: "We thought, hang on. SKY are about to nick everything and we can get rights for 700k. I spoke to Michael Grade, who loved the idea, and we did a deal". Even at this point, Channel 4 had a reputation for cutting-edge and imaginative television production, in particular their ten years of coverage of the Tour de France. James Richardson was picked as host mainly because he could speak Italian, but also because he was liked by those who picked him - fortunately, this was an era before the power of the focus group.

And the football on show was amazing: on the same day SKY showed the predictable Man.Utd v. Leeds, and ITV (who'd embarrassingly lost the rights to show top-flight matches) made do with Derby v. Bristol City, over three million viewers tuned into Channel 4 for the brilliant 3-3 draw between Sampdoria and Lazio (even though Gazza wasn't playing). I can still remember watching it myself: the pre-match choreographed flags and displays by the ultras, the smoke and flares, the singing, the skill on show, goals from Roberto Mancini and Beppi Signiori, the theme tune ('I'm Stronger Now' by Definitive Two), and the gorgeous sunshine. It all looked so fantastic - the Baseball Ground was never going to match up! Within two months, I was making my way out to Italy to watch Pompey play in the re-invigorated Anglo-Italian Cup. A year after that, I chucked in my job and spent six months roaming Italy like a Serie A-addicted Huckleberry Finn.

The naysayers said that the opening 3-3 was a fluke. So the following week we were served up Pescara 4 Milan 5 instead! And soon after, we had Fiorentina 3 Milan 7. Within a month, nobody cared that Gazza rarely played, because by then we we'd found Marco Van Basten, Roberto Baggio, Gabriel Batistuta, Franco Baresi, Paulo Maldini, Abel Balbo and many many more - all of them impossibly gifted and just so bloody cool. And viewing figures stayed consistently at 3million. But even better was 'Gazzetta Football Italia', the Saturday morning highlights show, where Richardson would lounge outside a Neapolitan cafe with a giant ice cream and a miniscule coffee. It all looked so cosmopolitan compared the Richard Keys hairy hands!

The rot, however, set in from about 1997. Firstly, Paul Ince (who Richardson had built up a strong friendship with both on and off screen) left Italy after two seasons at Internazionale, saying his family wished to return to the UK, and suddenly Danny Dichio was the best English player available to interview. But much more importantly, Michael Grade (who had been very supportive of the coverage) left as controller of Channel 4, to be replaced by less interested Michael Jackson who in turn was replaced in 2001 by Michael Thompson. 'Football Italia' coverage began to become more intermittent, while the previously brilliant focus on the Tour de France ground to a total halt, to be replaced by the floating turd that is Big Brother. In 2000, I actually wrote a letter to Michael Jackson, asking why the Tour de France coverage was being dropped in favour of Big Brother. I got a letter back telling me "It's what people want!" The bastard!

The very final live match shown on Channel 4 by 'Football Italia' ended in chaos, with the channel showing its true colours towards its football coverage. On Sunday 17th June 2001, Roma beat Parma 3-1 to win only their third Scudetto. With their excitable fans spilling onto the pitch in a good-natured pitch invasion, the match was held up for seven minutes late on. Back at Channel 4 HQ, however, whoever was in charge of the schedules didn't have the same sort of patience as the referee, and they pulled the rest of the coverage: the planned John Wayne film started on time, and 'Football Italia' went out with a whimper. There was to be no more football recall, and within a year Channel 4 was pumping its money instead into the ridiculous 'I'm A Celebrity'. 'Football Italia' limped onto the cable channel BRAVO, reaching a nadir of just 20,000 viewers in 2006 when James Richardson left after fourteen years at the helm.

I realise that the world of television has changed so much in the past twenty-five years, but when you look at Channel 4 spending 75million pounds on 'Great British Bake Off' and you know that those six million viewers will probably halve over the coming weeks, you can't help wandering what kind of mugs work in that industry these days. I still have a video tape of the 'Gazzetta Christmas Special' from December 1992, tranfered onto DVD at fair expense, and still watch it every so often to remind me what an exciting show it was.

Anyone else have fond memories of the show?





(This post was edited by oxpete on Sep 3, 2017, 10:08 PM)


Fanatic
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Sep 3, 2017, 10:50 PM

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Post #2 of 17 (12166 views)
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Re: [oxpete] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


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Anyone else have fond memories of the show?


Being stuck in a boarding school with little to do at weekends, I probably spent most Sundays watching Football Italia if ITV weren't showing a live match from the Football League (which invariably seemed to involve Luton, Sheffield United or Wolves). My main memory of it is falling asleep during many of the games as they tended to be quite tediously defensive. The Saturday morning fix of Gazzetta Italia and Transworld Sports was thoroughly enjoyable though.

Boring games aside, James Richardson is without doubt one of the best football presenters on British tv and it's a shame he's never got a major gig like Match of the Day.


(This post was edited by Fanatic on Sep 3, 2017, 10:52 PM)


PaulC
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Sep 4, 2017, 10:04 AM

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Re: [oxpete] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Oh yes - whatever happpened to the team called "Paul Gascoigne's Lazio"?


mick
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Sep 4, 2017, 1:15 PM

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Re: [PaulC] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

In 1992, when the live matches on C4 started, virtually all the Serie A matches kicked off at the same time on Sunday afternoons. As an aside, KO times moved earlier as the days grew shorter to avoid the use of floodlights.

After a few years the 'big' match was changed to Sunday evening, then more matches began to be scheduled for early Sunday evening as well as on Saturday afternoons and evening. This reduced the number of games available for live coverage on Sunday afternoon which I am sure contributed to the decision to reduce and then finish coverage.

The live game on Sunday was always top of the list for my weekend viewing but I have never watched Gazetta as highlight programmes do not appeal.


(This post was edited by mick on Sep 4, 2017, 1:17 PM)


Leyther_Matt
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Sep 4, 2017, 2:40 PM

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Re: [mick] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Was Gazzetta on at 10am or 11am? I always used to have football training on a Saturday morning and can never remember whether I always caught the end of it or just the start of it. Although I'd generally have recorded it anyway using VideoPlus. My Sunday afternoon viewing - outside of the rugby league season, at least - would depend on who was on Granada but more often than not I'd watch the Serie A game. Always considered myself a Fiorentina fan and even had a couple of replica shirts from the days of Batistuta, Rui Costa and the like.


paulh66
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Sep 4, 2017, 3:03 PM

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Re: [mick] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

 
The live game on Sunday was always top of the list for my weekend viewing but I have never watched Gazetta as highlight programmes do not appeal.


Good thread this. Just to mention that Gazetta was as much a news round up as a highlights show, and done with proper insight rather than the fluff that passes for news these days. Well worth watching and I agree with others that James Richardson is/was one of the best presenters around.


pitch 63
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Sep 4, 2017, 8:48 PM

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Re: [paulh66] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Prior to Gazzetta, didn't Channel 4 show Argentinian League football in the night, and I seem to remember another night-time programme, possibly n the same channel with an hour long football chat show.


aiwa
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Sep 5, 2017, 11:03 PM

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Was Gazzetta on at 10am or 11am?


I think it was 10am. I used to build my Saturday mornings around it. I was so influenced by C4's coverage that I flew out to Milan for the last round of matches (on 6 June), seeing Inter v Torino (3-0).


Leyther_Matt
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Sep 6, 2017, 9:34 AM

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Was Gazzetta on at 10am or 11am?


I think it was 10am. I used to build my Saturday mornings around it. I was so influenced by C4's coverage that I flew out to Milan for the last round of matches (on 6 June), seeing Inter v Torino (3-0).

So by the powers of deduction I must have trained 11-12 as I always missed the last 15 minutes. Can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning, though.


simonsm
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Feb 3, 2018, 2:09 AM

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Re: [Leyther_Matt] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I remember that the day Princess Diana died, UK TV live sport was postponed, but Channel 4 kept the Serie A live so the only thing to watch that day was the Football Italia match

I'm pretty sure that in the early days, it was the only terrestrial matches shown in the UK that had a scorecard/clock in the corner and people tutting that this was an annoying intrusion on the screen etc

I remember the last day of the 1997/98 season being amazed at the crowd coming on the pitch and stealing the players shorts, and there were closeups of Andrei Kanchelskis of Fiorentina shortless, which the gf at the time was very impressed with.

I remember them showing a late special 7pm KO game on the Sunday night at least once when there was a big match rendering the earlier 2pm matches relatively meaningless - I'm sure one was a Milan derby,

There was a time around I think just before the 1994 world cup where Channel 4 would show an international league match in the evening at the weekend, and one was definitely a Dutch match and I was fascinated as I'd never seen an Eriedivisie match before.

Under The Moon I remember being the late night football chat show in the mid-90s, and I think it competed for a while with Channel 5's sports shows that showed Brazilian highlights as well as live american sports like baseball (and prisoner cell block h). The Channel 4 version though was called Night Sports and showed either basketball or baseball depending on what was scheduled that night.

Not part of Under the Moon, but much earlier than that, maybe around 1991ish I remember Channel 4 showing a live baseball match, which they were saying was the first ever broadcast live in the UK (must have meant terrestrial as there must have been ways of getting it on early satellites) and it featured Chicago Cubs against someone, but I fell asleep watching it and didn't find out the final score until it was later mentioned on TV years later.

I also remember after Football Italia had gone to British Eurosport and then Bravo in the mid-2000s and the scandal had relegated Juventus, British Eurosport got away with showing live Juventus Serie B games on the channel on Saturday 3pm, but the coverage disappeared after a few weeks, despite the big promos they did for it, and so they must have been told to stop it due to the blackout regulations.


(This post was edited by simonsm on Feb 3, 2018, 2:18 AM)


jrev61
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Feb 3, 2018, 9:47 AM

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Re: [simonsm] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

The match that Channel 4 showed on the day Diana died featured Brescia, who had a player called Diana and another called Adani (anagram of Diana)!



jrev61


oxpete
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Feb 4, 2018, 5:43 PM

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The match that Channel 4 showed on the day Diana died featured Brescia, who had a player called Diana and another called Adani (anagram of Diana)!


It was Internazionale 2 Brescia 1 at the San Siro, on the first day of the Serie A season. My dad recorded it on video for me that afternoon to watch later, because he knew I had a soft spot for Brescia and I was out elsewhere - I spent that Sunday afternoon with TheWavendonian at the equally entertaining Havant Town 5 Baldock Town 3 in the Southern League.





pat51
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Apr 3, 2018, 4:19 PM

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Re: [oxpete] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

....'.I remember that the day Princess Diana died, UK TV live sport was postponed, but Channel 4 kept the Serie A live so the only thing to watch that day was the Football Italia match' ......
In fact, BBC went to Sunday League cricket early afternoon , only remember because it was a Hampshire home game from the United Services Ground Portsmouth....
Back on topic, I was also completely caught up in the spectacle of live Serie A football. The rarity value of live foreign football was a real joy and Sunday lunch was often hurried down to catch the 1pm starts.
Also. on cable TV at the time, 1992, there were Bundesliga highlights on ZDF early Saturday evening , the wonderful Eurogoals round up on Eurosport and even Argentinian football highlights on the short lived Screensport


Don't even bother nowadays, when everything is available and I have the retirement time to watch it...bizarre !


paulh66
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Re: [oxpete] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Just spent an enjoyable 75 minutes watching "Golazzo: The Football Italia Story" on BT Sport. James Richardson leading it, contributions from the producers and all the old faces, and some interesting interviews reminiscing with the likes of Beppe Signori, Gianfranco Zola, Paul Ince and even singer/songwriter/Italian football geek Paul Heaton. Well worth watching if you can get BT.


(This post was edited by paulh66 on Apr 4, 2018, 11:52 PM)


Leyther_Matt
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Just spent an enjoyable 75 minutes watching "Golazzo: The Football Italia Story" on BT Sport. James Richardson leading it, contributions from the producers and all the old faces, and some interesting interviews reminiscing with the likes of Beppe Signori, Gianfranco Zola, Paul Ince and even singer/songwriter/Italian football geek Paul Heaton. Well worth watching if you can get BT.

It's available to watch free of charge on the BT Sport website, I believe.

I watched it when it was screened on Saturday and loved it. Brought back tons of memories. Especially poignant since with the contributions of Ray Wilkins. The Paul Ince interview was great.


oxpete
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Apr 6, 2018, 7:09 PM

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Just spent an enjoyable 75 minutes watching "Golazzo: The Football Italia Story" on BT Sport. James Richardson leading it, contributions from the producers and all the old faces, and some interesting interviews reminiscing with the likes of Beppe Signori, Gianfranco Zola, Paul Ince and even singer/songwriter/Italian football geek Paul Heaton. Well worth watching if you can get BT.

It's available to watch free of charge on the BT Sport website, I believe.

I watched it when it was screened on Saturday and loved it. Brought back tons of memories. Especially poignant since with the contributions of Ray Wilkins. The Paul Ince interview was great.


Here is a link to it...

http://www.sport.bt.com/...story-91364261396113

...and it's a really enjoyable hour of telly. It brought back many good memories for more me. One thing I'd forgotten was how great a pairing Peter Brackley and Ray Wilkins were when commentating on the matches.





HertsHopper
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Re: [oxpete] 25 years of Channel 4's 'Gazzetta Football Italia' [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Good hour long programme and a good thread that brought back some memories. I used to watch the games Sunday afternoons even though my dad would say it was like watching a game of chess which sometimes it was. I used to stick with it as most games had one or two pieces of brilliance. I remember my dad saying he didn't know what all the fuss was about with George Weah and a minute later Weah dribbled the ball from one end of the pitch to the other and scored, it could have been the 96' Verona game shown on the programme but he scored a few like that.

James Richardson is a very good presenter and should be on more than Worlds Strongest Man, but then he might lose a bit of his quirkiness if he went too mainstream. I used to love the theme tune, always thought it said go(al)-Lazio, which the original 'golaco' (Portugese for fantastic goal) was actually edited to sound like according to Wikipedia.

My favourite teams were Parma because of the Zola connection and Lazio because of the passion of their fans or 'ultras'. I'd half forgotten some of the great names playing in Italy in the 90's. And that David Platt skit is hilarious.

 
 


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