Prince I am not, yet I am nobly born …. Thomas Dekker
A year short of a fifty, the thirtieth of this month, a god was born in Lanus, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He ruled with his feet, firmly rooted, and his head held high. And when needed led out his “hand (of god)”. An entire generation of British football lovers grew up since 1986 with the immense fear and anger for him (and his hand). Diego Armando Maradona is unarguably the best the world has ever seen in the likes of football, passion and controversy.
Never before has a footballer been romanticized to this extent. Those were the time of the radio, and a very few Doordarshan blessed ones. Hence as a kid, we grew up with ‘listening’ to how an Argentinean super-hero can dodge seven English players, score single-handedly and run back to his quarter to head out a lobbed ball from the opponents. Maradona is all about extremes. There is no mediocrity in him or his deeds. In the same match he scored the most controversial goal ever and again scores the best ever in football history. Having been under colonial rule for over two centuries, and having had a divided motherland, Bengalis appreciate anything that causes England harm. Poems, songs, short-stories, novels started to be printed about him at Bengali presses. Maradona had arrived in the hearts and minds of the Bengali.
Saturday afternoons came with a great dosage of audible bests in the “Kolkata Ko”. And there were “shrutinatoks” about how the “bokul phul” in the backyard reminded a young girl of Maradona. Barring the ingenious rhyming similarity of his name with the common Bengali pisces of “charapona”, Maradona had nothing so ‘Bong’ in him, yet he was so much our own. The best accolade the press could award a Bengali footballer was comparing the lesser mortal with him, “ekdam Maradonar matan defence chire ulkar matan shot” (running through the defence like Maradona and shooting like a meteorite).
Bangali babus who took a half day off from office to watch Mohunbangan-East Bengal maidan encounters, sat with black canvas Mohendro Dutta (not ‘and sons’ then) umbrellas only to discuss how Maradona would have passed the ball. Not before some “oh-so-knowledgeable” gentleman will leak out the secret news that either Kalighat or Aryans are going to rope him to play a few matches the next season. That sometimes led to a huge quarrel as to how could he possibly sign for Kalighat, when the ghoti-bangal frontrunners had more funds and arguably a better team. The answer was simple, and it came eventually from some elderly Dadababu, articulately chewing his pan and commenting while his toothpick clearing some betel leaf remnants from his tooth-foothill, “soboi maayer ichchhe” (all’s up to the wishes of maa Kali) !!!
They say if you start digging a huge hole from Kolkata (let’s say from under the revolving gate of Statesman House) and you dig all across the globe, you will end up in Mexico City. Now Mexico and Argentina are not nearby, but I presume some ‘special-species-of-the Bong-kind’ did actually do it. But, like most bongs, could not keep the tunnel straight and went astray. Yes….you guessed it right!!! A bricklayer and a factory worker by profession, this gentleman took up the name of Armando and his first son after three daughters is Diego. Now why this gentleman took up a surname as weird as Maradona still needs to be investigated. So far only the similarity to charapona could be traced, so conjecturably, he loved his fish and lived up to it !!!
[…see, we bongs still love fairytales. And we spice them up with real-life characters. There is a thakuma of “thakumar jhuli” fame in everyone of us]. I can go lengths about him. How the late Subhash Chakraborty finally convinced him of his origin and brought him back to Calcutta only to be mobbed by fellow cadres at the Salt Lake stadium. See fundamentally all South Americans are communists, and Maradona has on-record been a great admirer of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez (another reason of his bong-ness). He has a huge Che tattoo in his right arm (should have been left!!!). Now Barrack Obama after winning the Nobel Peace prize for not attacking Iran or North Korea has off late been deciding to bring back troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and as a step further may make a short Cuba trip to finish the Bijoyar kolkakuli with Castro (or may be a pronaam also). And now that Sarah Palin is gone, he may as well as honor Maradona with the governorship of Alaska!!! (Now no one has ever won Nobel Peace Prize back to back right !!!)
I keep the football part of Maradona for a later post. May be after Argentina lifts the 2010 World Cup! Shocked ? Don’t be, with the prince as their coach anything can happen. Victory served to increase Maradona’s self-belief and aura of invincibility. Maradona will press on blindly, brushing off criticism with remarks about having always fought adversity and come out on top. He is the arch-survivor, he cheated death by drugs or obesity after retiring as a player. I am a die hard Argentina fan and it broke my heart to see them in this situation. It gives me chill every time I thought about it. I cannot imagine a world cup without Argentina. But it’s becoming closer to reality after every game. And you are talking about magic. Only God can help Argentina today. And thankfully he is their coach.
Many often try to judge him in lines with other coaches. Maradona’s men in blues and whites never practice in the morning unlike other teams. Our Prince likes to sleep late, so before the Paraguay match they practiced in the afternoons. But then, that expected, right!! You cannot have a prince go out and train the soldiers. That’s the ‘senapti’s’ do! A Rajputtur will relax and wait for the battle. And when time arrives he will jump into the frontier and slash the opponents with his bare sword.
All the cheap shots about him and cocaine can be put to bed. Yes, he did do that. But not anymore. Maradona’s 48 years old now. He’ll never be as mature or serious as, say, Arsene Wenger. But he’s no longer a wild child either. Maradona will take this very very seriously. Whatever criticisms you can lay against Diego Maradona, lack of passion for the Argentina national team is not one of them. So yes, his coaching career so far is not good. But Maradona will know this is his one chance at glory. He can’t screw this up or throw a tantrum and quit and then expect to be offered the position again for World Cup 2014.
Tactics aren’t everything. Remember Jose Pekerman and his amazing attacking team at World Cup 2006? He made the tactical move of going defensive to protect the lead against Germany in the quarter-final and ended up losing the game. Maybe it will be good to see a less cautious coach in charge of a big team. And remember El Diego will have the old head of 1986 World Cup winning coach Carlos Bilardo to turn to for tactical advice. So, it’s all up to destiny. It all depends if you believe in this kind of thing, but if you consider the story of Diego Maradona, this is a man who seems destined to do certain things. Maybe the idea of Maradona as a serious coach is laughable. But for reason the idea of him coaching Argentina to a World Cup victory isn’t. Here’s arguably the most important thing: the Argentinean players love Diego Maradona. He’s done the one thing they all dream of doing: winning the World Cup for the albiceleste. So whatever else Maradona’s done (Riquelmically, chemical or otherwise) the likes of Leo Messi and Sergio Aguero revere him. They could also be inspired by him. It was suggested recently that the younger players who’ve played most of their careers in Europe couldn’t relate to Alfio Basile and his old-school style. They’ll have no such problem with Maradona. The god-prince is going to make it. And make it this time in style.
Vamos Argentina a ganar !!! Vamos Maradona !!!