Throughout the history of live football coverage, the commentator has had the unenviable task of capturing a memorable moment in a way that fully encapsulates both the facts of the matter and the magnitude of the event. A well-placed word or phrase can turn a great moment into a timeless one. Join me as I salute those pieces of football commentary that have cemented these moments in my memory forever.

1. Met balbezit voor Frank de Boer, Frank de Boer speelt de bal heel goed naar Dennis Bergkamp. Dennis Bergkamp, Dennis Bergkamp neemt de bal aan. Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Oh, Frank de Boer speelt de bal naar Dennis Bergkamp, die neemt de bal feilloos aan en die schiet de bal er in! We spelen nog officieel 20 seconden, Dennis Bergkamp 2-1!” – Jack Van Gelder, Netherlands v Argentina, 4th July 1998

The 1998 World Cup was about so much more than the brilliance of Zidane, the emergence of Ronaldo, the Blanco Bounce and the plucky Croatians. Just ask Jack Van Gelder, at the time the lead football commentator with the NOS Radio station in the Netherlands and apparently the Dutch version of the Capital Gold-era Jonathan Pearce. With the score locked at 1-1 in the 89th minute and extra time looking certain, Frank de Boer lumped a long ball up towards Bergkamp who, in a near mirror-image of a goal he’d scored for Arsenal against Leicester the previous season, took three touches to control the ball, beat Roberto Ayala and slam a volley past Carlos Roa. Everyone went mental, not least ol’ Jack in the Dutch radio box. Wonderful stuff. Oh, and if you’re wondering, it translates as; “Frank de Boer in possession. Frank de Boer, plays a good ball to Dennis Bergkamp. Dennis Bergkamp, Dennis Bergkamp receives…
Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Oh, Frank de Boer played the ball to Dennis Bergkamp, he received the ball perfectly and scored! With officially only 20 seconds left, Dennis Bergkamp 2-1!

2. “Oh! You have to say that’s magnificent!” – Barry Davies, England vs Argentina, 22nd June 1986
With the nation still reeling from the infamous Hand of God goal, Diego Maradona then decided to redress the fair/foul balance by scoring the Goal of the Century. He ran 60 yards and beat 5 players including Peter Shilton before stroking the ball into the net, and Barry Davies’ stunned reaction appropriately summed up every football-loving English fan’s sentiments at that exact moment.

3. “Gascoigne… oh brilliant! Oh yes!! Ohhhh yes!!” – John Motson, England v Scotland, 15th June 1996
David Seaman had just saved a Gary McCallister penalty and as the ball was cleared down to the other end after the resulting corner, it was knocked through to Paul Gascoigne. Gazza then proceeded to dink it over a perplexed Colin Hendry and slam it past Andy Goram in the Scots’ goal. Combined with the infamous ‘Dentist’s Chair’ celebration, this was the moment the Euro 96 tournament came to life and was immortalised by Motty’s near-orgasmic explosion of joy.

4. “It’s Tony Adams put through by Steve Bould! Would you believe it!? That sums it all up!” – Martin Tyler, Arsenal vs Everton, 6th May 1998
With Arsenal 3-0 up and cruising against Everton, a result that guaranteed them the first half of what would eventually become a League/Cup Double, a surging run forward by centre-half and captain Tony Adams was picked out by Steve Bould. Adams then proceeded to smash a half-volley into the net and send the Highbury crowd, and Martin Tyler in the commentary box, into raptures.

5. “Beckham… in to Sheringham… and Solskjaer has won it!!” – Clive Tyldesley, Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, 26th May 1999
A reluctant entry since I share the belief of many that Clive Tyldesley is possibly the most biased and obtuse commentator on television, but you’d need a heart of stone to not get goose-pimples every time you see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stick the ball in the Germans’ net and hear United fan Clive practically die with joy on the commentary. He followed this up with the cringe-worthy and obviously rehearsed “Manchester United have reached the Promised Land”, but his exclamation as the winning goal went in is arguably the most poignant and real thing he has ever said while wearing headphones.

Honourable mentions go to Fox Sports’ Max Bretos for “Release the Kraken” and another Barry Davies favourite, “Italy lost because they will not learn!”


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