“It’s going to be a semana hot”, Maradona announced after the Haiti friendly last Wednesday. Hot in Argentina usually means scantily-clad WAGs throwing oil over each other and/or slapping each other in the face. Yet although he was referring to the provisional squad to be announced this evening, these week has seen el Diego embroiled in several pointless and embarrassing set-tos with the offspring of eminent football men.
First came a verbal waxing of the nether regions from Humbertito Grondona, who threatened to “crush” him if he so much as looked askance at his poppy, the long-term godfather of the AFA. Then yesterday, Alfito Basile, progeny of the former Argentina manager who stepped down after a Mark Hughes-ish run in October 2008, accused Diego of being underhanded in his ascension to the manager’s job. Alfito claimed his father was systematically undermined – in particular during the Beijing Olympics, where the under-20 manager was in charge and D10S cheerleader in chief – and labelled the current DT a ‘conspirator’ over and over again via his Blackberry.
Maradona of late, perhaps owing to the influence of his magnificent beard (despite its purely practical purpose in covering up the love-bite inflicted by his dog), has been trying to cultivate a quiet dignity, be more of a statesman and cool things down, or at least consciously avoid polemics. Granted, his political play backfired last Wednesday but in general he has kept schtum and not leaked team or squad selections through the media. He never expected Humbertito to spank him so last week and hence his unusual reaction to the latest attacks. Repressing every natural instinct he has, he replied to accusations not by a pitch-side broadside, nor, as is his wont, by picking up the phone and dialling whichever of the talking shops stocked with numerous fat, cranky men was currently in session, but by means of a letter! A letter containing very un-Maradonian phrases such as “nothing further from the truth” and “I cannot accept what he says”. Oh the indignity!
Yet his detractors were not content with completely altering his modus operandi. Since then Basile’s former assistants, Ribolzi and Dibos, have backed up Alfio Jr and slammed Maradona. Ribolzi said today: “As a player the manager of the Selección was the best I ever saw [...] but as a person he’s a scumbag, he’s an unqualified scumbag.” He went on to say that Maradona would talk back “to the Pope, to Grondona, to Humberto, to anyone, but on this he’s silent. He sounded quite nervous in the letter.”
On the contrary, far from sounding nervous, pegamequemegusta has not bothered to translate the letter as it’s quite boring. Alfito Basile, last seen in these parts when he was making a documentary about Coco’s campaign, seems to have chosen this moment purely to embarrass Maradó. He seems to be taking full advantage of Diego’s attempts at propriety to take a few cheap shots. His father’s resignation took everyone by surprise and Maradona, far from immediately appearing as favourite due to underhand dealings, was not in the running at all (all round legend Carlos Bianchi was the overwhelming favourite).
Still, it’s a funny time. Maradona, despite being in his dream job with a tasty enough team just a month before the World Cup, finds himself in a strangely weakened position. Gone is the rancorous, vituperative Diego of Uruguay gone the scorn king, the prince of put-downs. Enter Mr Maradona, august professional, driven to the pen as his peers’ lap-dogs plot against him! Oh the indignity!
The provisional squad will be announced this evening and Pegamequemegusta, for one, wants him back.