WE'RE privileged in Hong Kong to have access to top-class live soccer in abundance. Premier League, Serie A, Prim-era Liga, Dutch League, Chinese League, Champions' League, UEFA Cup, Cup-Winners' Cup and Euro qualifiers are all available through cable and satellite TV, providing a constant supply of here-and-now in-your-face action throughout the season. But occasionally you wish there was something a bit more contemplative to chew over. After all, football has more than a century of history covering most parts of the globe and there are many stories to be heard. Just such a gap was filled to perfection by an unlikely source, Discovery Channel (on Wharf Cable) with its five-part series Champions of the World. Each hour-long programme foc-used on one of the football-mad nations of Latin America - Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Strictly speaking, the series' title was a misnomer because only the first three are actual World Cup winners - but that's nit-picking. The shows did not look at the game in a vacuum but placed it in the relevant social-political context of each country. They are full of illuminating interviews and fantastic archive footage of both national and domestic action. In the Argentina episode, for instance, black and white film of a 1950s Boca Juniors v River Plate match sent tingles down the spine. It was then updated to the incredible atmosphere of a modern Boca-River game. There was an eye-opening look at Diego Maradona's childhood shanty town and the hovel he used to live in, and film of a teen-age Maradona juggling a tennis ball and then a golf ball. Argentine commentators talked about how everybody in the country knew the crucial 1978 World Cup clash with Peru was rigged at government level. 'These generals waged a war of genocide against their own people,' said one analyst. 'Fixing a World Cup was easy.' The Brazil episode featured interviews with Zico, Rivelino and even Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. The famous extradition-dodger spoke Portuguese and wore his Flamengo replica kit while talking about his love of the club. As for the national team, for all their glories, interviews with old timers and clips from the time emphasised how devastating the impact of the 1950 World Cup final loss was on Brazil. The Maracana was built especially for the event and a draw was all they needed in the final group match with Uruguay. Brazil even went ahead. But a 2-1 loss gave Uru-guay the cup. So great was the trauma that Brazil never wore an all-white strip again. The Colombia episode revealed more about the fascinating breakaway league of the 1950s, the DiMayor, which defied the regional governing body and recruited many of the world's best players including Alfredo Di Stefano. The Colombian game went into a long lull, only re-awakening in the world's consciousness with the national side of the 1990s including Carlos Valderrama, Freddie Rincon, and Faustino Asprilla. Much was said about the astonishing 5-0 win in Argentina during qualifying for USA 94. But this gifted squad will be remembered mainly for under-achieving and for the tragic circumstances around the murder of defender Andres Escobar whose own goal cost the match against the US. These superb programmes aired first in the summer and again in September so there's every chan-ce of more repeats before the year is out. Definitely worth a look.