All Aboard The Showboat

Over the years I have provided Audio Description for a number of high-profile movies and shows for Sky- including Avengers, Star Wars and Harry Potter films. For many years, my primary focus was writing and voicing Sport AD.

As a huge football fan, one of my favourite shows to Audio Describe is Soccer AM: Best Bits, Sky’s long running football-based comedy/ talk show.

A common feature, and the one which requires the most Audio Description, is known as “Showboat.” This is a skills montage, usually a few minutes long, featuring players performing a variety of flicks and tricks from matches, with an upbeat soundtrack.

There is no commentary, so the onus is very much on me to try and give an accurate description to these (often outlandish) skill- moves, performed by players from all over the football world.

Some of these moves can be quite tricky to describe. A few have established names, which helps, but then I think it’s also necessary to describe the actual movement of the player for the audience as not everyone is familiar with what a ‘rainbow flick’ is.

I believe it’s important to strike a balance, a happy medium between being overly technical or clunky with the wording, and not giving enough information. All of this also has to be done in just a few seconds as the montage quickly moves on to the next skill. Sometimes I will only have time to say: “Lukaku does a backheel,” for example.

My experience from Audio Describing many fast paced action movies with tonnes going on really comes in handy here.

Back to the skills.. A ‘rabona’ for example, is where a player swings one foot behind the other to strike the ball, usually resulting in a chipped attempt at goal or a lofted cross. There’s a story that the name is derived from the Spanish word ‘rabo’ for tail, and that the move resembled the swishing of a cow's tail between or around its legs. Sounds credible, if you ask me.

As a Tottenham fan, one of our ex-players Erik Lamela famously scored two goals with this skill, including one against our arch-rivals Arsenal.

A ‘rainbow flick’ is where a player plants both feet either side of the ball and flicks it into the air over an opponent’s head. PSG Brazilian attacker Neymar likes this one.

A nutmeg has perhaps the most interesting origin. Listed by the Oxford English Dictionary as "arising in the 1870s which in Victorian slang came to mean 'to be tricked or deceived, especially in a manner which makes the victim look foolish'. This skill is where the attacker knocks it through the defender’s legs and (crucially) collects it on the other side.

According to ‘Football Talk - The Language and Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game’ by Peter Seddon, “nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were wont to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England.”

Who knew?!

Other skills are self-explanatory; a backheel and a no look pass (a particular favourite of Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Firmino) do exactly what they say on the tin.

Others less so, A flip-flap or a flick-flack is where a player moves the ball one way, then quickly the other, often resulting in a bamboozled defender. Anyone one of these, or more can appear in the Showboat sequence, constantly keeping the describer on their toes.

Growing up I was a big fan of Soccer AM and take a great deal of enjoyment from providing the Audio Description, especially on Showboat. I hope our AD users feel the same!

By Robbie Gaston, Audio Describer