Football

WC will be best remembered for Maradona's theatrics

Had it not been for the incomparable Diego Maradona, the touchline would not have been so exciting in this World Cup.

But the curtains came down on his touchline theatrics as Argentina were swept out of the World Cup 4-0 by the German blitzkrieg on Saturday night.

All through Argentina’s matches, Maradona was a live wire on the sideline and his comical remarks at his press conferences and his antics with the ball kept everybody amused. His top players, like Lionel Messi, Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Higuain, were reduced to that of supporting roles to Maradona’s dominating figure at the dugout that kept gesturing, gesticulating, admonishing, cursing and even perhaps wishing he was on the field as he somewhat longingly caressed the ball with his boots anytime it came to him.

As the protagonist the world saw many facets of the man known to his country as El Diego, as his autobiography is called.

If one moment, he was waving imaginary cards at the referee with ravaged wild eyes, the next moment he was found kissing and hugging his players in happy tears.

Maradona orchestrated his players like a man possessed and jumped up and down on the touchline. His silver beard and gelled black hair looked like a union between Eric Cantona and a Tasmanian Devil.

The madness of Maradona was for everybody to see.

When Messi was repeatedly fouled he would snort along the touchline with arms flailing and arguing with the assistant referee. And if a chance were missed, he would clutch his own hair in frustration.

In fact the fourth official had a tough time keeping a check on this Argentine coach.

Sifting his fingers through his rosary beads, when his team conceded a goal, and punching the air repeatedly in joy, when Argentina scored, were the images of the coach Maradona.

And when the ball rolled on to him, he could hardly control himself. A little bit of juggling, a back heel and the Jabulani — the ball which was heavily criticised by him — was back on the field and the act got a huge round of applause from the fans.

Off the field, it was the old Maradona and he never minced words against his two vocal critics Brazilian legend Pele and French great and UEFA chief Michel Platini.

Maradona asked Pele to “go back to the museum” and claimed that Platini thinks he “is better than all the rest”.

Maradona also asked both the greats to check out if the maligned Jabulani ball for themselves to see if it was good or bad.

In this World Cup, fans expected Mardona to get at par with Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany Franz Beckenbauer as players who won the World Cup both as player and a coach.

But at the end Maradona suffered the fate of Argentina’ other World Cup winning captain Daniel Pasarella, under whom the team made a similar exit in France 1998.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 12:02:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/WC-will-be-best-remembered-for-Maradonas-theatrics/article16184802.ece

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