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Aspects of Language in Peter Drury’s Football Commentaries

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Peter Drury, the man with the golden voice

Peter Drury has one of the finest voices in football commentaries. The language of the English football commentator is poetic and charming, like the characters he often describes on the field of play. Rich in imageries and entertaining, it captures the imagination uniquely. He is a distinguished sports brand that has brought a signature style to his job of reporting football’s fierceness and beauty from the press gallery. Of late, Drury has become a hit on social media platforms in Nigeria, particularly on Twitter. To this end, one must deconstruct his style regarding the elements of language he employs, as his elegance has become a hit for lip-synching and theatrical replications.

Drury understands football has a dual character. While football is often not characterized as a violent sport, it still retains elements of intensity in the way tackles are executed. Violence also shows in prejudice against race and color, which is often projected in the absence of sportsmanship during bad-tempered games. Peter Drury frequently captures the fierceness of on-field play with a twist that suggests he understands the sport has intrinsic but often underestimated viciousness.

The color in Drury’s language reminds one of the polished voice of Bryton Butler at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Butler captured the glory of the Argentine hero, Diego Armando Maradona, against outsmarted English players and their futile attempts to cut down the mischievous midfielder and captain in that quarter-final match at Azteca Stadium. But Maradona evaded all violent tackles and scored one of the most elegant goals in the history of organized football. It is impossible to capture those malicious attempts to stop an attacking player without borrowing a little poetic or violent vocabulary. Bryton had called Maradona “little squat man” and likened him to a “little eel” that left his opponents “for dead.” Drury seems to possess an understanding of this sort of language as well.

Ancient history and myths also inform Drury’s repository of words. He retains a sharp sense of the world’s cultural past, particularly of Greek and Roman civilizations, and he brings this historical charm to bear on some of the games he narrates.

For instance, one of the best illustrations of Peter Drury’s exhibition of his sense of Roman and Greek history is in the 2018 UEFA Champions League game between AS Roma of Italy and FC Barcelona of Spain, at Stadio Olympico in Rome. Here are some of Drury’s words during that 2nd leg quarter-final game: “Roma have risen from their ruins/ Manolas, the Greek god in Rome/ History, even for this city/ It is a Greek from mount Olympus who has come to the seven hills of Rome and pulled off a miracle.” 

Peter Drury distinguishes himself from the drawl of most American sports commentators and that Spanish or South American style that emphasizes the word “goal” repeatedly. Such commentary is often fluid and restless; indeed, it’s energetic and beautiful in its own way.

Often using spontaneous displays of brilliance, Drury’s reportage transcends football. And his style would have been bland without a bit of spice here and there. One has observed that he incorporates history, poetry, fluidity, gloss, drama, and repetitions into football commentaries. 

And these values are the beacons that have thrust him into the illustrious field of some of football’s finest voices. He sometimes pushes our attention to the cultural world outside the game’s universe by using the dramatic cadence of his press voice and suspenseful pauses at critical moments. This technique works both ways. It enhances pleasure for those who have an idea of both realms, while it also alienates people who know nothing about the references being made.

In his professional entirety, Peter Drury is a master of the game who makes football more enjoyable even on days when the game is drab and without on-field drama. Drury employs succinct sentences, apt adjectives, well-articulated syllables, and an oratorical impact that has since made it difficult to dispute his place as the Cicero of world football. He utilizes his stock phrases to bring life and color to his coverage. He is also mindful of the social and cultural order of the day games are played, thereby employing these references in his commentaries. His iconic moments are growing by the day and will keep doing so for a long time to come.

Steve Ogah
Steve Ogah
Novelist, Poet & Essayist, Steve's the author of Barack Obama's Logic & the novels; Khaki Boy & Freedom Campus. Steve is a UEFA accredited Sports Media Rep.