Sunday, July 4, 2010

World Cup 2010: Diego Maradona—Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Diego Maradona looked on helplessly as a ruthless German team cruelly exposed his beloved Argentina. Powerless to stem the flowing black tide, he cut a dejected figure on the sidelines, praying to gods who were in no mood to listen. And as he wakes this morning, he will ponder his future as his country's manager.
One thing that really stands out about this particular World Cup is that the expected stars of the game, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Kaka, the list goes on, all failed to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck.
If anything, this tournament has proved that Maradona is still a bigger star than them all put together and retains the old fearlessness that all great players need to turn them into stars.

And that one of the enduring images of South Africa 2010 will be Diego Maradona hugging his players as they came off the pitch, celebrating every goal like he had scored it himself and shining like a  crazy diamond.
If anything, the Pink Floyd classic, written about Syd Barrett in 1974, is pretty apt for Diego Maradona too.
Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.Shine on you crazy diamond.
As a player Diego Armando Maradona has, perhaps, only one equal—Pele. He was simply majestic. A pocket battleship of a player, his incredible control, phenomenal dribbling ability, supreme work-rate, laser like vision, eye for goal, and fantastic range of passing mark him out as one of the best players to ever kick a ball.
Conventional wisdom would have the big football story of 1970 being Pele guiding Brazil to their third World Cup, and they would be right, but as in any Butterfly Effect something small and unknowing happens in another part of the world that will change everything.
When he was discovered as a 10-year-old in Estrella Roja, few would have thought that the little playmaker for The Little Onions would go on to help shape the game for the next 20 years.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.Shine on you crazy diamond.
Having tasted victory and defeat in equal measure during his playing career, and his life, Diego Maradona was crestfallen after Germany's 4-0 demolition of his side.
"I may leave tomorrow," he said in the immediate aftermath. Speaking as a man who felt every goal like the death of 1,000 cuts. His inability to change the flow of the game will sit heavily on his shoulders.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze. Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

Before the tournament naysayers had lined up in droves decrying his management skills and style.
The main point they were trying to make stemmed from Maradona selecting 107 players between his first match against Bolivia, a 6-1 defeat, and a 1-0 over Uruguay some seven months later. However, the real truth of the matter was that his critics had neglected to mention the hastily arranged friendlies.
In trying to find his best 23, Diego led Argentina into battle on 22 occasions, with a record of W-15 D-0 L-7. Before the quarterfinal defeat to Germany, La Albiceleste had won nine in a row, scoring 25 and conceding just five goals, including a 1-0 win over Germany at the Allianz Arena in March.
Sure enough, Argentina was taken to pieces by a clinical German side, but Maradona did many things right in his short term as manager. If he has retained half the character he showed as a player he will have learned from these mistakes, will treat victory and defeat as equal impostors and lead his team into the Copa America.
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.Shine on you crazy diamond.
The main problem with this Argentina team was that they were too one dimensional. A big statement considering the talent on show but La Albiceleste is only capable of playing one way.
In sticking with an aged Juan Veron, a blunt Javier Mascherano, and leaving Roman Riquelme at home, Argentina had no midfielders capable of opening up defences when the chips were down.
Lionel Messi, phenomenal talent that he is, is still developing, and is too easily isolated for well-drilled defences. Without a creative midfield and without Messi, Argentina is easy pickings.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.Shine on you crazy diamond.
Carlos Tevez was equally devastated after the defeat but spoke quite candidly.
"Losing like that really hurts. I'm personally wounded. I feel the pain, but that's football.
"We were appalling today. Sometimes you fail to live up to your own expectations.
"I really don't know why this has happened. They totally dominated us, and we never had enough possession. On top of that, our counterattacking play was atrocious, but I'm not pointing the finger at anyone."
"I'm as disappointed as all Argentines," Diego said. "To see my country lose a football match is very hard for someone who has worn the shirt."
"I lived through this in 1982 as I player, but I was a boy. I did not realise how important it was.
"I will be 50 on October 30, I'm mature, and this is the toughest moment in my life.
"This is a real kick in the face. I have no energy for anything..."
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze. Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!
Argentina, under Maradona, were described as a car crash waiting to happen, with Germany resembling a 16-wheeler truck. There is no doubting that Maradona contributed to the loss, no doubt that he struggled to come to terms with Joachim Loew's counter-attacking tactics once they conceded the early goal.
Diego is a prisoner to the jersey. He is locked in an inescapable spiral within Argentine football. If he is not playing, he is in the crowd. If he is not in the crowd, he is managing.
Whatever Diego's fate, one thing is for sure: he will be a big part of Argentine football for years to come, regardless of his role.
As Pink Floyd would sing, shine on you crazy diamond.