07.29.10

Touched By The Hand Of Losing A Job : Maradona’s Orgy Of Finger-Pointing

Posted in Football at 2:56 pm by

As you’ve probably heard elsewhere, despite leading Argentina to the quarterfinals of last month’s World Cup, Diego Maradona’s short yet eventful tenure as coach of the national team came to a contentious end yesterday. Unsurprisingly, Maradona did not go quietly into the Buenos Aires night, reports the Guardian’s Joel Richards.

As he delivered his own version of the events that lead to his chaotic reign coming to an end, Maradona explained his choice of words. “In front of witnesses and players,” he stressed, “(Argentina FA president Julio) Grondona came into the changing room after the Germany game [the 4-0 defeat at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup in South Africa] and said he wanted me to carry on as coach. Then when I got back to Argentina, things started getting all confused. Now this.”

National team general manager Carlos Bilardo, in the meantime, was singled out for more dramatic prose. “While we were in mourning [after being knocked out of the World Cup], he was working in the shadows to have us thrown out.”

Rarely for him, Maradona spoke in the plural. His entire stewardship had been about nobody else but him “ about the team being his, about him being in charge around here, about things being done his way, about what he needed. But the reasons for his contract not being renewed are, ostensibly, not to do with him, but rather his backroom staff. Grondona asked Diego to continue without seven of his assistants “ inconceivable for Maradona. “I defend my people, from the masseuse to the kit man,” he said. “I have a code that they [Grondona and Bilardo] don’t have.”

While Maradona remained on the defensive yesterday, the argument stands that it was he himself who hijacked Argentina’s chances at South Africa. He oversaw embarrassing defeats in the build up “ 6-1 in Bolivia, 3-1 at home to Brazil “ and qualified for South Africa right at the death. Inclusions in the 23-man World Cup squad, such as the journeyman Ariel Garcé, or the sixth striker Martín Palermo, were inexplicable. Exclusions such as those of the Inter duo Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti were internationally condemned. As anybody watching Argentina knew, he was a tactical novice. The woeful defeat to Germany confirmed everybody’s suspicions.

But while at home and abroad the consensus is that Maradona simply had no idea what he was doing, and while it is easy to blame the 49-year-old for everything that is wrong with Argentina, he in fact fared no worse than his predecessors at the World Cup. “Not since 1990 has Argentina made it past the quarter-finals,” he pointed out yesterday. “Nobody is talking about that.”

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