Eoghan Dalton takes a look back at ITV’s Keane and Vieira documentary the Best of Enemies and RTE’s Ronan O’Gara documentary.
It was adorable in its own way; almost a decade later and they were still as competitive as ever with each other, even if their new arena resembled an abandoned warehouse cellar rather than a high quality football pitch. Maybe it was to give it that Fight Club feel, which might have made sense even though all they were doing was combining a Dream Team 11 from their clubs. Nonetheless, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira resumed their rivalry from their glory days as captains of Manchester United and Arsenal and began inspecting the famous incidents and games from the years they faced off against each other and also the defining moments in their own careers.
Their reflection on a game at Highbury in 2005, where they got into quite the row in the tunnel before kick-off, found them coming to the same conclusion, which is that both were merely trying to protect one of their own; Keane was making sure Vieira wasn’t bullying Manchester United full back Gary Neville, while Vieira was trying to send a message that Neville was not going to have his wicked roughhousing way with Gunners midfielder Robert Pirès, as he had done in the previous game at Old Trafford (no word on what Pirès or Neville made of it all, sadly). They found themselves agreeing with each other, too, on what made them both such immense players for their clubs; determination and the awareness that opposing players could be real challengers to them.
The two enjoyed reminding each other of their lesser moments on the pitch, be it Keane reminding his opposite of the misplaced pass that set up Ryan Giggs for that FA Cup semi-final winner or Vieira running through his thoughts on the night Arsenal won the league at Old Trafford. Keane came across as still being hung up on various incidents throughout his career. He cried after being let go from United, for two minutes’. It’s hard to judge at times when he’s telling the truth and when he’s being half honest but also planting a few metaphorical studs on those from his past.
There was nothing metaphorical about the injury to Alfie Haaland, which he has no regrets about. Vieira came across as less grudging (if a bit too gentle) but wasn’t afraid to point out the flaws at Arsenal in his time there; namely, that Arsene Wenger isn’t the type of manager who’ll give his charges a rocket up the arse to get matters going. He spoke against Ashley Cole leaving the club, too.
Best of Enemies was a well-made hour of television, and having two of the Premier League’s most iconic players as its subjects was obviously helpful and intriguing. What was also beneficial was that Vieira and Keane are versed in television thanks to their work for ITV, which was behind the doc. This meant both men knew how to talk, when to dramatically pause and how to time the funny bits just right (of which there was surprisingly plenty).
Over on RTÉ, meanwhile, we were treated to a look at one of Ireland’s greatest rugby stars; Ronan O’Gara. Similar to Keane and Vieira, he possessed an incredible hunger but was also earnest in ensuring he didn’t let his team down either. This propelled him and his teammates towards Grand Slams and Heineken Cups throughout his 16 year long career as a professional.
ROG’s generated an audience of around 595,000 people and raked in 65, 800 views in total on RTE player. It encompasses his last four years playing and manages to gain insight into some of the major moments of that time period. As he puts it himself, it’s the ”buzz” of winning that wouldn’t leave him walk away after the surprising defeat to Toulon in 2011 in the Heineken Cup.
It’s been a fine few weeks for sports watchers, with these documentaries hopefully paving the way for similar features in 2014 and beyond. Although ROG isn’t an easy method to emulate as it takes time, patience and money to get made, we are likely to see more which follow the Best of Enemies route. ITV took two interesting characters from football, sat them in a decorated room and simply had them talk through incidents both were involved in. They kept it simple and it worked. There’s a follow up joke to that sentence, but I’ll resist making it.