In Argentina, where soccer and politics are so closely intertwined, the humiliating defeat of superstar coach
Maradona -- perhaps the best soccer player of all time before he retired in 1997, and a semi-God in his country -- was hailed by most Argentines as the man who would lead the country to win the World Cup. But then came the disastrous 4-0 defeat by Germany, which eliminated Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Germany are soccer super-powers, the ease of
The differences between the teams are striking. Maradona was picked as the team's coach despite having little experience in that job. His team barely qualified for the World Cup. There were widespread rumors that his appointment was influenced by merchandising considerations and by President
Maradona supporters said he motivated his players like no one else could, because the team's players had grown up idolizing him. Not surprisingly, the cameras during the World Cup games focused more on Maradona than on any of his players.
Germany, on the other hand, was a ruthlessly effective soccer machine, with no superegos. As
But when Maradona returned to Argentina earlier this week, he received a hero's welcome by up to 20,000 fans. President Fernández de Kirchner, aware of the latest polls showing that about half of Argentines still adore Maradona despite the World Cup results, said she plans to invite the coach to the presidential palace to give him an official welcome.
The pro-government bloc in the
My opinion: Argentina should leave behind its "Maradona syndrome" of worshiping individual celebrities over teamwork and planning. While Maradona was the world's best player in his time, he has been a poor coach and a terrible role model.
As a player, Maradona is remembered by many for his illegal goal during the 1986 World Cup in
To this day, the incident is remembered in Argentina as a prime example of many Argentines' celebration of slyness over hard work. Later, Maradona was charged with tax evasion in
But now, I can only wish that Argentina becomes a little bit more skeptical about charismatic leaders and a little bit more mindful that good governance means making the whole better than the sum of its parts. With its incredible pool of talent, that would help Argentina go a long way.
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(C) 2010 Andres Oppenheimer