Television feast for fans with action all the way

Donal Scully

FOOTBALL maniacs, your time has come. If you're wired to cable and satellite prepare to be inundated with programmes about the game.

Top of the list are the live matches. As the English Premiership starts off on a new high following the success of Euro 96, this week alone features three, count them three, LIVE matches.

Thanks to Wharf Cable Sports' acquisition of rights they will show two live matches a week . Wharf whetted our appetites in no uncertain fashion with Sunday's brilliant Manchester United display in demolishing Newcastle in the Charity Shield. First up to try and stop the Red tide are Wimbledon. It's the Dons v United on Saturday (9.55 pm) and Southampton v Chelsea on Sunday (10.55 pm). If you have Nicam, English commentary comes with the game.

If not, tune in the radio and turn down the TV.

English commentary is guaranteed for Monday night's match on ESPN (2.55 am Tuesday morning) when Liverpool and Arsenal renew hostilities. This is the first top line clash of the campaign. If English matches don't placate you then there are two live matches from the ever-improving Chinese National League. On Sunday at 4.25 pm on Wharf Cable Sports it's reigning champions Shanghai v Army.

And later the same day satellite station STAR Sports offers GZ Apollo v Shenzhen in a Guangdong derby match at 6 pm.

Sunday, in fact, is a four-match day. As well as the aforementioned English and Chinese live clashes there's the highly-promising Dutch Supercup where champions Ajax take on Cup holders PSV Eindhoven. Ajax have already been seen live on STAR's Umbro Cup coverage a fortnight ago where they beat Manchester United and lost to Chelsea. Since then however they have been slaughtered 6-0 by Juventus and lost to Deportivo La Coruna - so this could be PSV's chance to turn them over. That's six live games in all and they are bound to produce memorable moments.

But to be honest - and at the risk of upsetting all you United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Ajax fans - the match of the week this week is not live. It's not even recent.

None of the participants are playing any more. In fact it was played 26 years ago.

West Germany v Italy the 1970 World Cup semi-final, showing on STAR on Saturday at 1 am (with a repeat at noon) is an all-time classic.

There's Beckenbauer with his arm in a sling, there's Muller, there's Riva and Rivera. Not to mention seven goals and a series of dizzying lead changes.

Purists will point to the subsequent final as the greatest display by an international side when Brazil thrashed Italy. That game also can be seen on STAR in the same nostalgic series (on Wednesday at 7 pm).

But really, as a match - a full-blooded contest - the semi-final is better.