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Is it fair to label Maradona crazy?

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After witnessing scintillating ends to the top European leagues such as the Barclays Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and Italian Serie A, the attention is now diverted to the southern hemisphere in anticipation to the long awaited start to the 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup. 32 teams will be, technically at least, be competing fiercely for the biggest prize of them all, the grandaddy of the footballing universe. It is no secret that I personally am tipping Diego Maradona’s Argentina to win this World Cup, although one could see a plethora of journalists and pundits alike dismissing Argentina’s chances to win the World Cup. However, it is not the time to debate about Argentina’s chances per se, this is about their much derided manager Maradona, who has infamously utilized no less than 100 different players in their shaky and precarious qualification campaign and also infamously snubbing stars such as Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Milito in favor of players such as Martin Palermo and Ariel Ortega. The question to be asked here is that, is it really fair and correct to label Maradona as crazy and incompetent, echoing the aforementioned journalists and pundits? Or is Maradona’s bizarre tactics and selections so far is a fruit of his genius footballing brain?

It is actually not really correct to label Maradona as crazy simply because of Argentina’s precarious qualification campaign which really gave them huge scare of not qualifying as well as the aforementioned “questionable” team selections. Firstly, Diego Maradona is perhaps simply trying to bring out unknown variables into the equation. We have to realize that if Maradona is to follow the so called mainstream and “correct” way of doing things by selecting only top European based players who are playing in the top clubs and the top leagues of this world, Argentina will become some sort of predictable unit, at least on individual level. This is simply because of the very fact that all of us, let alone the complicated and advanced network of scouts around the world know players such as Carlos Tevez, Leo Messi, and Diego Milito inside out largely thanks to the global coverage of the top European leagues in which those players are plying their trades in. If Argentina is to become such a predictable unit, the opposing defending players, who are themselves top players playing against the aforementioned Argentine players week in week out will not have any problems identifying one best way to stop them as what they have been doing at club level.

By choosing players from the Argentine League, it is from a division which has less coverage, and definitely has less information available for the oppositions in comparison to the top European leagues. They would be needing a totally different set of strategies to stop those players and also not mentioning how those players are not used to playing these players on a regular basis. Even if they have played against each other before, it is likely to be a one off match such as during the now defunct Intercontinental Cup or the Club World Cup. Even for players who have starred in Europe before such as Riquelme, Juan Veron, and Ariel Ortega, they have been out of the European game for so long and the players who used to rub shoulders with them have either retired from the international scene or retired altogether. Thus, we might want to start thinking how the “craziness” of Maradona is in fact a shrewd and smart thinking. And yes, we haven’t start talking about how choosing players from the Argentine league will only do the domestic league a world of good!

Secondly, by choosing a whopping 100 different players in the qualification campaign, Maradona keeps everyone in the entire universe to keep guessing. Too many variables are involved, and there’s no definite set up in Maradona’s plans. Even if he chooses players from the Argentine league, people will start to study the way they play, the tempo that suits them, and a whole lot of factors needed to beat the team. But that’s only for a team constantly playing together for every single match throughout the qualification campaign. But 100 different players? Those scouts or even the managers themselves might attend the Argentina matches, but each match brings a totally different dimension, and there’s no set pattern. The variable changes for every single match. There’s no chance at all to really study the Argentine team thoroughly as 100 players would mean that it is not one team, but around 10 different starting line ups! There’s no way to study 10 different teams, and even if they succeed in doing that, they still have to guess which 23 players out of those will be chosen to go to South Africa (which is already done at the time of writing) and the oppositions would not have been successfully studied those 23 players thoroughly as those 23 might not be a team in the qualifications. Maybe each player comes from each different “team” sent by Maradona to each match? Totally no room at all to be studied and spied. Masterpiece from Maradona, although I am appalled at how those top class pundits and journalists fail to see this…

People will now point at the extreme scare of Maradona’s qualification campaign which nearly knocked any hopes of Argentina qualifying, which they point out with their so called expert analysis that it would be a disaster if that had happened. That’s true, but in the end Maradona kept to his words and qualified. At least Argentina secured their qualifications in a legitimate way. Even the fact that France secured their qualification through Thierry Henry’s blatant, low class, and shameful cheating antic, they are in the World Cup, no matter how the Irish want to cry until the cow comes home. So who’s to say that Maradona’s Argentina who qualified legitimately do not deserve a plane to South Africa? Also, people may call me crazy, but I would love to think that besides trying to confuse oppositions as mentioned, he also used the qualification campaign as a form of mind games, so that he and his team are underestimated. He allows people all over the world to ridicule him as a madman, idiotic coach, and other appalling insults as a small sacrifice so that everyone will write them off and underestimate them, only to see them surge all the way to the World Cup Glory, and to add Maradona to a list of legends who has won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager. It is such a noble sacrifice for his country. Besides, in superstitious terms, we have seen too many times in too many World Cups that the teams who surge through all the way through the qualification campaigns (Spain and England as usual, be warned) always end up relatively early. As for Spain and England, maybe last 16 or the Quarter Finals are what they could dream of.

However, despite how Maradona’s tactics might have been used to enhance Argentina’s chances to win the World Cup, it is nevertheless pertinent to point out that Maradona’s tactics were too risky for such a high stakes campaign. I mean, we can’t dismiss those people who point out how Maradona had carried Argentina down so much that they were on the verge of failing to qualify to the World Cup barring Martin Palermo’s last minute goal against Peru as indeed it was too precarious to be comfortable. I mean, if I am a manager, or a citizen of a country, I would rather be like Spain and England, qualify so comfortably through the qualification campaign and being knocked out early rather than not qualifying at all. It was indeed a high risk move by Maradona. But nevertheless, he has made it, Argentina is now ready to add one more star onto their shirts, and Maradona is ready to hug the famous Jules Rimet trophy one more time as a manager now.

Thus, it is utterly invalid to dismiss Maradona’s tactics and team selections as simply idiotic moves as what have been mentioned above, Maradona might just be that one genius manager who thinks outside of the box and beats any other managers in the competition who religiously adhere to the so called “right way” or mainstream way of doing things. Remember, sometimes it is the unorthodox who triumph over the religiously orthodox exponents in a martial arts for example. Also, we have to remember that despite all of his private problems in the past, Maradona is still someone who is rational, and above all, someone who has a genius footballing brain. While it is again true that great players do not make great managers, we have to say that Maradona is one of them who are good in both worlds and the fact that he’s still in charge until now speaks volume of how the AFA trust him for the job. They are rational people as well, and thus let’s just sit back, and watch how Maradona’s team surge through the competition all the way just like how the man himself waltzed through England’s defence in 1986 on his way to scoring the goal of the century!

Written by cp

18/05/2010 at 15:54

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