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'Hand of God' now wields mike
Update: Pelé played his guitar and Maradona cried. This is not surprising. On the debut of La noche del 10 on 15 August—a "2½-hour kitsch-fest," according to the Los Angeles Times—they headed a football to each other and put their multilingual talents on display, Pelé being interviewed in Spanish and Maradona speaking Italian with guest María Grazia Cucinotta, then translating on the spot. Football tennis formed part of the mix: Maradona and Gabriela Sabatini versus Gabriel Batistuta and a local actor. Maradona told Buenos Aires daily Clarín that he wanted the show to be "un club de amigos" (Silvina Lamazares, "Arrancó La Noche del 10: 'Soñé mucho con una fiesta así,' " 16 August). In this spirit he surrounded himself with family and with wide-backed white chairs bearing his picture. He credited daughters Dalma and Giannina for his recovery from drug addiction, and, at this moment, the tears came: "If Jesus stumbled, then why not I as well?" (Uki Goni, "Maradona Reinvents Himself as Chatshow Host," The Guardian, 17 August).SHIRTS
The Tao of Che
Havana, Cuba, 28 July 2005 | Ernesto "Che" Guevara has become a common fashion accessory for footballers, part of the trend decried by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, for whom, as the title of his recent essay states,
Diego Maradona occasionally flexes a Che tattoo on his right arm. Fans of Livorno in Italy's Serie A wave Che banners as part of their identification with the birthplace of Italy's Communist Party (see Ian Hawkey, "Political Football," The Times [U.K.], 3 April 2005). Journeymen footballers like Gustavo Di-Lella of Larne in the Irish League identify with Guevara's itinerancy. "He arrived in England in 1997, not knowing a word of English," the Belfast Telegraph writes of Di-Lella (Alex McGreevy, "Guerrilla Tactics," 17 July). "Settled alone in a six-bedroom farmhouse with the nearest supermarket a five-mile walk, Di-Lella had every reason to return to his family in South America. But, Che Guevara didn't turn back, so Di-Lella was never going to." Guevara himself liked the game and is often quoted: "It's not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution." Due to asthma, Guevara played goalie. He and friend Alberto Granado spent part of their well-chronicled journey through Argentina, Chile, Peru (where they arranged games in a leper colony), Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela in 1951–52 training a football team. "I lived in an era of good soccer and good tango," says Granado, 82, who was on set for much of the filming of The Motorcycle Diaries, which depicts their travels (Geoffrey Macnab, "My Ride with Che," The Guardian, 13 February 2004). Granado, a physician, now passes his time "reading and dreaming."DETENTIONS
Yet another monkey slur
Media in Argentina, meanwhile, spoke of Desábato's "crucifixion" and hinted at strains of political correctness within Brazilian culture. "[Argentina] has a minuscule black population," Tobar wrote for the L.A. Times, "and racial attitudes here often seem a throwback to an earlier time. When Argentina played Nigeria in the 1996 Olympic gold-medal match in Atlanta, a front-page headline in the Buenos Aires sports tabloid Olé declared 'The Monkeys Are Coming.' " Grafite in late April hinted at dropping the charges, but no further word has come from São Paulo.
In Naples, where Maradona played for Serie A side Napoli, admirers leave Post-Its®.
English-language assessments range from condemnation of Maradona's lifestyle to appreciation of his iconic status. Rob Hughes of the International Herald Tribune sketches Maradona's archetypal rise from Villa Florito as the fifth of eight children, labeling him the "male Eva Perón" ("The Past Takes Its Toll on Maradona"). In Maradona, to Hughes, we have a troubled man at struggle to find the youth within: "Maradona a week ago indulged in an impromptu game with university students, and looked again a child at play. May he still be doing that when he is 60, and beyond; and may those bystanders who catch a glimpse of it remember that inside this bloated little man is the very essence of the game." To others, of course, Maradona represents the reverse: a boy who needs to grow up. Andrew Cawthorne, former Reuters correspondent in Havana, recalls other kickabouts as Maradona recuperated, at Fidel Castro's invitation, from cocaine addiction. He also recalls Maradona watching Boca Juniors matches via satellite and diving, fully clothed, into a friend's swimming pool in raucous goal celebrations ("My Kick-Arounds with Maradona in Cuba," Reuters, 20 April).
There is no doubt, however, that Maradona's return to Argentina—to contest a legal matter against a former associate—has demonstrated the bonds between man and country. Supporters outside the clinic have created a worship environment, and in their 3–0 Copa Libertadores victory over Bolívar today, Boca Juniors dedicated each goal to "El Diez," Maradona (Mariano Dayan, "De Diez," Olé, 22 April; registration required). "His possession of the human gift of producing and giving joy," writes Eduardo Archetti, "lies behind his incomparable cult" (" 'And Give Joy to My Heart': Ideology and Emotions in the Argentinian Cult of Maradona," in Entering the Field: New Perspectives on World Football, ed. Gary Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti [Oxford: Berg, 1997], 44).
Havana, Cuba | 9 February 2004 . . . The phenomenon of Diego Maradona receives another exposition (Gabriele Marcotti, "Tuning In to the Surreal Voice of God," The Times [U.K.]). After bringing us up to date on Maradona's doings—an occasional commentary gig on Biscardivenerdi on Italy's La7 network—Marcotti dissects the archetypal Maradona: Maradona as trickster, religious figure (see other accounts of the "Hand of God" church) and iconoclast:
[S]ections of his fanbase—whether consciously or unconsciously—secretly entertain the notion that he harbours some form of divinity. How else can one explain his immense nature-defying gifts? He is a Christ figure, crucified by football's Herods, Sepp Blatter and João Havelange. And, like Christ, his message is not always easy to understand, though one day all will be revealed. Of course, this school of thought ignores the fact that Maradona does not walk on water or heal the sick and, at least for now, he's come up short in the business of delivering salvation. . . . Perhaps the explanation is simpler. Maradona is the slutty Jezebel to Pelé’s girl next door, absinthe to wine coolers. | back to top