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World Cup TV verdict: Roy Keane’s must-see TV is in stark contrast to RTÉ

Former Ireland captain and Graeme Souness’ discussion on ITV puts British broadcaster ahead in quality of game analysis and sincere debate


Roy Keane has been an outspoken critic of the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar. Photo: Getty Images

Roy Keane has been an outspoken critic of the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar. Photo: Getty Images

Roy Keane has been an outspoken critic of the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar. Photo: Getty Images

Twenty years ago Roy Keane left his mark on a World Cup without kicking a ball and three days into Qatar 2022 the former Ireland captain has already put his imprint on sport’s biggest showpiece from the safety of the pitch-side television studio.

If the three channels widely available to Irish viewers were pitted together in their own World Cup group, captain Keane would be leading his ITV team-mates into the knockout stages.

Presenters, pundits and commentators are increasingly crucial parts of any tournament experience and whether you prefer RTÉ, BBC or ITV, team selection is vital.

This is especially important when issues off the pitch are even more important than any events on it.

Controversies around treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community make this an unprecedented tournament and Keane made headlines yesterday when he condemned Qatar’s human rights record.

“The World Cup shouldn’t be here,” he said “The country, the way they treat migrant workers and gay people. You can’t treat people like that. We are talking about common decency.”

His colleague Graeme Souness shared similar sentiments.

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“It’s in Qatar’s hands to improve workers rights and improve diversification of the country. The British have not been perfect in many parts of the world, including in Roy’s country,” the Scotsman poignantly said.

When it came to the football, Keane and Souness were at loggerheads while discussing Argentina’s penalty in their defeat to Saudi Arabia.

“I’m here to give my opinion that’s not a penalty,” said Keane. Souness hit back saying “I’ve heard you say it 10 times, you’ll learn a lot more if you listen rather than talk all the time.” As the former Liverpool and Manchester United captains came to blows, Joe Cole played a spectator role in the heated discussion.

Keane and Souness proved it’s possible to hold sincere debates on key issues like human rights, while also providing viewers with enthralling and amusing moments, in the standout broadcast so far.

RTÉ pundit and former Ireland international Shay Given has said he would steer clear of controversy. “I just want to talk about the football and the excitement of a World Cup,” Given told the Irish Independent last month. His colleague Richie Sadlier has however, taken a braver approach.

“When you see the actual values of this tournament, it’s an affront to wear an armband promoting equality, it’s further evidence FIFA are completely hypocritical. It puts a further stench to this event” said Sadlier on Monday, after FIFA threatened sanctions to nations intending to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband.

Despite the laudable comments on the controversies, the actual football analysis has been short of standout moments like Keane and Souness’ so far, and is a far cry from the days of rousing debates from Eamonn Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady.

While RTÉ chose to broadcast the opening ceremony on Sunday, BBC1 didn’t, opting to discuss the variety of reasons the World Cup should not be taking place in the Gulf state instead.

“From accusations of corruption, to treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums, where many lost their lives. Homosexuality is illegal here. Stick to football say FIFA. We will for a couple of minutes at least,” said presenter Gary Lineker.

Meanwhile, some have accused broadcasters and journalists working in Qatar of hypocrisy and say they should have boycotted the finals. But those critics should remember, it is their job to report and shine a light on Qatar’s wrongdoings, like Keane and Souness.

Journalists have already shared videos of fans wearing LGBTQ+ colours being denied entry to stadiums, and swathes of empty seats at games, despite organisers reporting inflated attendances. Many of the controversies may not have emerged if it wasn’t for such reports, and it’s vital they continue.

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