The God bites the dustBy Abhishek Roy, IANS
Saturday, July 3, 2010
CAPE TOWN - Diego Maradona was close to tears on the touchline, his team numb with shock, outplayed by the brute German machine that knocked in four goals without reply in their quarterfinal tie. This World Cup has turn out to be a graveyard for the fancied teams–France, Italy, England, Brazil and now Argentina.
France and Italy melted in the heat of the first round, the hyped English team succumbed to Germany in the pre-quarters. A lacklustre five-time champion Brazil were shocked by the Netherlands. But Saturday’s 4-0 victory of Germany against formidable rivals had the most lethal impact.
Argentina had steamrollered every opponent in the first round with three convincing wins and the world thought Maradona’s boys would conquer the Cup for the third time. It was not to be.
Going into the World Cup, only a few committed fans had faith in Maradona. Some felt Mardona and star Lionel Messi would end Argentina’s title drought, 24 years after Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal gave them the second title.
But against a young German side, those optimists were left to stare in disbelief at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. They cursed the great Maradona for the loss.
“We always feared for this day. Everybody in Argentina had doubts on Maradona the coach. Today we were proved right,” Juan Sebastain, a disgusted Argentine fan, told IANS.
In an unofficial poll last October on the website of the country’s largest daily Clarin, 86 percent of 14,000 voters in Argentina believed that Maradona could not help his team improve. And the worst fears came true when El Diego’s side suffered their second consecutive loss at the hands of the Germans in the World Cup.
Football expert and a columnist with England’s Daily Express, David Miller, told IANS: “Maradona’s media conferences here were a shade exhibitionist. It had to end this way.”
In this World Cup, some fans couldn’t relate to Maradona, always seen as the poor man’s hero.
“We are not used to see him in a suit. I guess the grey suit brought ill luck for him. It would have been better if he was in his traditional track suit,” rued Gabriela Joseph, a fan, looking for a reason for their loss.
Maradona returned to the World Cup 16 years since his last cap. His new look has been the talk of the tournament.
With chest puffed out, Maradona sported a trimmed grey beard. His temperament mellowed, Maradona finally looked a man in command of his charges after a near-disastrous qualifying round in which Argenitina just about managed to scrape through.
Though, off-field Maradona was a reflection of his older self, unforgiving and unrepentant. He used the harshest of words to hit back at his fiercest rival Pele and the media back home.
“It seems that he was too much distracted with Pele’s comments. Diego would have done better by not responding to all such verbal duels,” said David Almeida, another fan.
“Great players don’t always make great coaches. We had a relatively easy run till the pre-quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals Maradona looked short of ideas against the classy German team,” said another fan.
Last week, Maradona at the Loftus Versfield in Pretoria said that Argentina were not favourites for the title.
Little did he know that the dream will be over so soon.
(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at email@example.com)