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Best Foot forward



The French, it is said, are renowned for their sense of style, panache and sex appeal. Though their equivalent to Match of the Day isn't brimming over in any of these categories, it does still knock the British TV legend into a cocked hat in these and pretty much every way.

Foot! is a 50-minute show that's broadcast every Monday evening just after 8pm on TV5 Europe and is everything that the BBC show is not. There are two co-presenters rather than one, there are no former players to reduce the show to a snail's pace and the running length of the programme is a full half-hour shorter. Oh, and they show top flight football highlights from France rather than England, but you probably already worked that out anyway.

Foot! is a valuable televisual resource for anyone wanting to see French football from this side of the channel. With live coverage practically impossible to find here, it's an absolute treat to see any kind of footage (no pun intended) of what's going on in Ligue 1.

The presenting team is something of a curiosity. Taking the lead in guiding the audience through the show is France Pierron, a Gallic equivalent to Sky Sports' Georgie Thompson but with a cleaner driving licence. A slight, blonde-haired twenty-something with the natural grace of Kate Moss, she's a more than competent presenter. Such a shame, then, that she should have to contend with Didier Roustan for almost an hour every week.

Actually, that's a little unfair. Roustan is something of a well-known face where football TV is concerned in France. He's been presenting and commentating on one channel or another for several decades along with the occasional spot of column-writing here and there too. Being someone of such high standing, he's naturally given equal billing with Pierron and takes every opportunity to chip in with some well-judged dialogue – often while his female counterpart is talking too. An unfortunate habit on his part but one which, in a weird way, adds to the informality of the programme.

As far as looks are concerned, it's difficult to know what to make of Didier Roustan. With his receding Brylcreemed hair and thick black eyebrows, he has something of the failed French cabaret performer about him. Just as well, then, that he negates this to a large extent with a quirky, animated persona that adds life to a humble little football highlights show such as this.

Ah yes, you cry, what of the football itself? Well Foot! gives you less in the way of recorded action than Match of the Day, but what you do get has more punch. Whereas MOTD shows nearly every notable chance on goal, injuries to players and talking points a-plenty, Foot! merely shows a small selection of goal-scoring opportunities plus, of course, the goals themselves. It doesn't leave you feeling short-changed either, which is quite an achievement.

Highlights are shown for individual matches or pairs of matches and are interspersed with the occasional post-match interview or, more likely, some studio chat between Pierron and Roustan. Sometimes, Roustan is even allowed to talk us through a key sequence from a game with the aid of a computer simulation shown on the big screen behind him. Think 'Jimmy Hill-meets-Pro Evolution Soccer' and you're more or less there.

But what does all this add up to? Is Foot! a worthy adversary to Match of the Day? Is it fit to walk in the shadow of Lineker, Hansen and Lawrenson?  In short, yes. Foot! is an understated piece of worthwhile television, even if I, with my CSE Grade 2 certificate in French, can barely understand a word of it.

For those wanting to see only the high points of all the big games every weekend, plus a little bit of light-hearted chat, it delivers exactly that. It's not boring because it doesn't have time to be, nor does it have any sense of tradition to abide by, thereby allowing it to be simple and concise while retaining its own distinctive identity. Foot! quite simply is a perfect little package of football entertainment that doesn't take itself too seriously and is all the better off for it.

Match of the Day – take note.

(Foot! can be seen at 8.05 every Monday night on TV5 - Sky channel 799 and and Virgin Media channel 825.)

This article is also available via FrenchFootballWeekly.com.

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