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SPECTACULARS
'Hand of God' now wields mike

Link to video preview of Diego's show
No translation required: The website of Canal 13 touts Maradona's new project as a "mega show." (www.canal13.ar)
Buenos Aires, 10 August 2005 | Given the apparent success of a recent stomach-stapling, Diego Armando Maradona now has three mediums in his future: television, film and T-shirts. The legend is shown slimmed and pumping his fists in an online preview of La noche del 10, which premieres 15 August on Argentina's Canal Trece. Maradona will co-host the entertainment and interview extravaganza with his former Argentina teammate Sergio Goycochea. The producers have planned an on-air reconciliation of sorts for the first program. Maradona and Pelé will appear together publicly for the first time since Maradona's 2001 testimonial farewell match, perhaps to play football tennis, which producers envision as a regular segment. A press release describes the show in the main as "a place to speak with your idol and to give your feelings and sentiments."

Considering that obituary writers just over a year ago were going on notice as Maradona lay in hospital (see 21 April 2004), the glitzy spectacle of a TV show must be considered part of a revival for "El Diez."

Maradona and Kusturica at Cannes on 21 May. (Laurent Emmanuel | AP)
Like Pelé, Maradona appeared at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Maradona walked down the red carpet with daughter Dalma and esteemed Bosnian director Emir Kusturica, who is preparing a documentary, tentatively titled Maradona, for release in 2006. A feature film directed by Marco Risi La mano di Dio (The hand of God)—is in pre-production, scouting in Argentina for someone to play the lead. In an interview with La Repubblica, however, Risi strongly suggests that Italian actor Marco Leonardi, who had roles in Cinema Paradiso and Like Water for Chocolate, might get the nod (Maria Pia Fusco, "Maradona, ecco il film la vita e i guai del 'pibe de oro,' " 9 August). Leonardi was a soccer player and "has the same type of physique and is left-footed like Maradona." Clearly, Risi is smitten with the dramatic potential and will not shy away from the weight, drug and family problems. While comparing Maradona's creative talents to Vincent Van Gogh and jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, Risi says that "[w]e are talking about a man that has touched the sky with his feet and then more-or-less self-destructed before touching bottom."

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,

The famous Che image, as silk-screened onto a shirt sported by Thierry Henry.
Che was a "killing machine" (The New Republic, 11 July). "His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandannas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea, and of course those omnipresent T-shirts with the photograph, taken by Alberto Korda, of the socialist heartthrob in his beret during the early years of the revolution," writes Vargas Llosa, the son of Mario, the novelist and former Peruvian presidential candidate. In a 5,500-word screed, Vargas Llosa details the atrocities that occurred at Guevara's hand and by his orders. While writing that "[n]o man is without some redeeming qualities," Vargas Llosa nominates 19th-century Argentinean political philosopher Juan Bautista Alberdi for iconic status, rather than a man who brought revolutionary zeal and collectivist violence not only to Cuba, but to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Haiti, the Congo and Bolivia, where Guevara died in 1967.


Alberto Granado (above) and Guevara met Real Madrid's Alfredo Di Stéfano on their trek. He gave them match tickets, but we're not sure if they used them.

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


Grafite (standing at left) is honored Friday by the Subcomissão de Igualdade Racial e Inclusão of the Brazilian Senate. (Célio Azevedo)
São Paulo, 12 May 2005 | An incident on 13 April continues to make headlines as journalists again use football to take the measure of racism, this time in Latin America. In a group-stage match between Quilmes of Buenos Aires and São Paulo in Copa Libertadores, Leandro Desábato of the Buenos Aires club allegedly insulted opposition striker Edinaldo Batista Libánio, or Grafite, by calling him a macaco and negro de mierda (Phil Davison, "Soccer War Starts Over Player's Use of N-Word," Independent [U.K.], 17 April). The confrontation escalated quickly to an international exchange. Grafite formally charged Desábato, who was held in lieu of $3,800 bail for two nights in a facility, according to Argentina daily Clarín,
Link to "Trafico de Escrávos no Brasil," Biblioteca Nacional
A Brazilian slave market. (Slave Trade Archives, Brazil)
consisting of "shadowy passageways" with walls pocked with bullet holes from earlier uprisings (Hector Tobar, "A Racial Wrangle in Brazil Rouses Crowds Far Beyond Soccer Field," Los Angeles Times, 16 April). The Brazilian Senate honored Grafite, named for his graphite skin color, on Friday to correspond with the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Princess Isabel, acting as regent, on May 13, 1888, signed "Lei Aurea," authorizing slaves' release. At the time of the Grafite–Desábato incident, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was, coincidentally, in Africa making apologies for Brazil's role in the slave trade; half of Brazil's 180 million are slave descendants.

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.

BUENOS AIRES, 21 APRIL 2004
Post-It® Prayers for the 'Bloated Little Man'
The reports read like preliminary obituaries, waiting for night editors to make the inevitable ghoulish substitutions: "Diego Maradona, a footballer beyond the imagination, . . . is critically unwell. . . . He is not quite 44" (David Miller, "Forget the 'Hand of God' Goal: Maradona Was Touched by God," Daily Telegraph, 20 April). Superlatives are being honed, phrases ventured: in

In Naples, where Maradona played for Serie A side Napoli, admirers leave Post-Its®.
Miller's article, Maradona is described as "perhaps the finest spectacle of beauty in motion," "truly the quality of mercury about him." Soberingly for the phrase-makers, Maradona's condition in the Suizo Argentino clinic in Barrio Norte appears to be improving after his hospitalization Sunday with heart and lung ailments; as of 28 April, although still in intensive care, he was walking, talking and taking food; as of the 29th, he had left the facility entirely and had reemerged on the golf course.

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.]). Maradona sometimes appears in vests that show off his Ché Guevara tattooAfter 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