I’m aware that the current football, erm, situation is not to everyone’s taste. But for those of us who enjoy the game and don’t hate women, LGBTQ+ people or migrant workers, it’s been a bit of an odd week. I’ve limited my participation to listening to the matches. This isn’t a protest, I just don’t really like the analysis/bantz football shows. They sometimes just feel like being talked at by pub bores.
Still, if you’re what is usually called a “proper” fan, there are umpteen World Cup audio shows: radio programmes and podcasts are popping out daily from the BBC, indie producers and commercial stations, packed with pundits a-punditing from stadium or sofa. Or you might try Inside the Qatar World Cup, an excellent three-part strand from Football Ramble. Host Kate Mason is that unusual thing: a female football journalist who worked in Qatar for a couple of years (for the beIN Qatar sports channel). Beginning at a seven-a-side women’s game in Doha, the pitch completely hidden so no men can see, she talks to players, fans and coaches, most of whom withhold their names. Mason covers how women are treated in Qatar, the state of the country’s men’s national football league, visits the segregated workers and fan areas and speaks to migrant workers who actually worked on the stadiums.
She also talks to Dr Nassar Mohamed, the only Qatari thought to have ever come out as gay (he had to claim asylum in the US), who explains in clear, measured terms just what gay people go through in his home country, including conversion practices and being “disappeared” by the authorities. Mason is level-headed and sensitive throughout. An excellent series from an independent podcaster.
Football, for the Qatari rulers, means business, as it does for many others. The Sidemen, a collective of some of Europe’s most successful YouTubers (KSI, Miniminter … ask your kids), started their careers by putting up videos of themselves playing Fifa, or mucking about trying to score goals against each other, eventually staging celebrity charity matches watched by millions. Now their manager, 25-year-old Jordan Schwarzenberger, has a podcast, Unboxed, in which he talks to high-profile “creators” (YouTubers, TikTokers, Instagrammers) and gets them to explain how they became successful.
At first, as a generation above the target audience, I was a bit lost. Who is Zac Alsop and why is Schwarzenberger interviewing him? (Answer: he’s a YouTuber.) But I was won over by both men’s straightforwardness and honesty. And actually, Alsop’s description of what he does struck me as very much like editing a magazine: thinking about how to grab attention, what to offer the reader/watcher, which photo works, which cover line… Unboxed has lovely sound and crisp editing, plus, if you like your podcasts visual, you can watch the show as well as listen, which helps when discussion turns to specific “thumbnails”, the small still pictures used to promote YouTube videos.
Actually, I enjoyed Unboxed so much I tried out The Diary of a CEO, which I’ve been avoiding because a) it’s so successful it doesn’t need my endorsement and b) I hate business talk. Also c) each episode is an hour and a half long, which is far too lengthy to iron to, even if you tackle the sheets. There are downsides to the show: entrepreneur and host Steven Bartlett’s manner is superior, as though he, and only he, understands the real truth. And the highlights reel at the beginning is OTT. But Bartlett is very thorough, and I loved singer/producer Labrinth’s account of growing up in a religious musical household. Being a guest on The Diary of a CEO is like being invited on to Desert Island Discs, a form of endorsement, so each interviewee is immensely happy to be there and willing to spill whatever beans are needed.
Radio 4 is providing a lower-key, old-school business approach in the Generation Gap, where two differently aged practitioners of the same job talk about how they go about things. Last week we met GPs, cab drivers, builders, turkey farmers and, on Tuesday, Jan and Sonya, both hairdressers. Jan, 66, still does perms for her care-home clients, but, explains Sonya, 35, perming has fallen off hairdressers’ training, replaced by how to put in extensions. Times and attitudes change, and such small cultural exchanges can reveal as much as any world-beating tournament.