Does Maradona deserve a second chance?
I wouldn't want to be in the AFA's headquarters - sandwiched between the legacy of one of the game's greatest players and Sergio Batista who has delivered unexpected successes.
Diego Maradona would rather the world stop turning if he weren’t the center of the universe for Argentinian football.
The buzz on the streets of Buenos Aires has come full circle since the start of the World Cup. Everyone seems to be talking about Diego Maradona yet again. A country obsessed with one man who won them a World Cup. Were I president of the AFA (Argentine Football Association) I wouldn’t be getting such great sleep these days with the impending choice of choosing a new manager for the national side.
Remember that Diego Maradona was denied a four year contract extension immediately after the World Cup based on his unwillingness to budge on the subject of key members of his back room staff particularly long time assistants Alejandro Mancuso and Hector Enrique - whom the AFA didn’t get along particularly well with. Maradona in yet another moment of madness, decided to stand his ground and refused to budge on the issue.
Then the unthinkable happened. President of the AFA, Julio Grondona actually showed some backbone when the AFA decided that Maradona’s contract would not be extended since he refused to accommodate their demands. Pele must have busted out his favorite samba moves to the tune of that newsbyte having come to the conclusion that Diego Maradona’s career in football was now over.
Legacy intact, Pele and the great majority of the South American continent went to sleep content that they wouldn’t ever have to entertain the possibility of Maradona running across a football pitch with the golden trophy of dreams gleaming under the spotlights. Love him or hate him, lets face it we all had our own personalized rendition of what it would have looked like once his side got to the knock out stage of this last World Cup in nothing short of dominant form.
That being the case, I wonder what went through Pele’s mind this last week when Diego Maradona dropped a bombshell on the Argentine press literally begging the AFA for the head coaching job back minus the bravado and pre-conditions he was so adamant on before. Having asserted itself to be a strong institution not willing to succumb to the demands of its national heroes the AFA are now in a bigger hole than the one they thought they dug themselves out of when they refused Maradona the first time around. Murphy’s Law is in full force for the football troubled nation once again.
The reason? In the immediate aftermath of Diego’s tantrum and on the back of a 4-0 spanking at the hands of Germany in the quarter finals, none other than Sergio Batista, a long time team mate of Maradona (who played alongside him on the national side) took the reigns of the nation's footballing fate when he signed up to be the head coach of the national side on a provisional basis.
No one knew what to expect but after just two games in charge, Batista’s selections saw victories over Ireland and even World Cup winners Spain by a three goal margin on September 7 2010 in what was friendly in all but name. Many of Argentina’s faithful fans were left holding their heads, wondering if they had sent the wrong team to the World Cup - or the wrong man to lead them.
The question on everyones lips now has to be what will the AFA will do next?
Sandwiched between the legacy of one of the greatest players the game ever saw and Sergio Batista who has delivered success against the freshly crowned champions of the world, I don’t think anyone envies the men sitting in the AFA’s headquarters now.
In the next few weeks, as the situation in Argentina unfolds like a melodramatic latin soap opera don’t be too surprised if things take a turn for the dramatic.
Like a damsel in distress married to a man she didn’t want but is living with him until she can't stand the shame of his poor management which is bringing dishonor to the family name. Will a messy divorce follow? Let's hope we aren’t looking at a similar situation in a few weeks because if that is how thing go I just want to say, "Argentina, sweetheart, you deserve better."
This post was originally published here.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 1, 2010
In an earlier version of this post the word 'divorces' was incorrectly used instead of divorce.