An uninspired Simon Kuper laid out some bizarre maxims in his recent Financial Times article about Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
Kuper’s distinction of “professional??? and “nationalistic??? views of football is odd – every national team aims to succeed each and every time it takes the field. There is no greater honor for players than to represent their country. To win matches, Kuper continues, a national team must “follow best international practice,??? though we are not told what exactly constitutes “best international practice.” From every angle, the argument is off and fails to persuade.
Argentina’s World Cup qualification campaign was complicated, with Maradona in charge for half of it. The problems did not begin with Maradona’s selection of “undersized pibes” who are not “professional” and “cannot reach the top elevator buttons.” Eight of the twelve who started against Uruguay are European based players, while Veron spent most of his career in Europe and came home to finish his career with the club he loves. The latter notion of not winning without tall players is simply absurd. First, looking at De Michelis, Veron, Higuain, Schiavi, Heinze, the goal scorer Boccheti, they are big boys. More importantly, if this idea is applied theoretically, let’s take Xavi and Iniesta out of Barcelona because they are “pibes” with “ganas,” Cristiano Ronaldo out of Madrid, Fabregas, Rosecky, Arshavin, Sabri or Eduardo out of Arsenal, half of the Italian team that won the last World Cup, even Rooney and Giggs out of Man United. All of these players are essential to their national teams.
Argentina has always played with “pibes??? full of “ganas.??? Neither Argentina, nor Brazil, could ever perform in a northern European style. It would seem out of character, nationally or internationally, as Fontanarossa explained. “Pibes??? full of “ganas??? won the 1978 and 1986 World Cups. In 1990 the “pibes??? got to the final with limited talent around Diego and immeasurable “ganas.??? It’s one thing to point out the obvious, that Maradona is not in the top echelon of football tacticians, or that he had no previous successful coaching experience (neither did Guardiola by the way). It’s another to refer spitefully to the greatest player of all time as “a peculiar former cocaine addict.??? Kuper’s thinly veiled enmity can only be rooted in ignorance or in “Mano de Dios??? bitterness in which case he needs to embrace best international practices of “get over it??? and “let it go.” We expect nothing less from Argentina than “pibes” full of “ganas.”