The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
I’m talking about Maradona, of course, who was officially unveiled as the head coach of Argentina yesterday. What he lacks in experience, he makes up in his power to inspire—in his almost unprecedented ability to convince a nation, perhaps an entire world, that anything is possible.
Maradona. I’m talking about Maradona.
The news from Argentina is that even before the appointment was officially made, the new coach was already at odds with Julio Grondona, the president of the Argentine Football Association, over who his assistants would be. Grondona prefers the current youth coaches, Sergio Batista and José Luis Brown, while Maradona, wary of the fact that both men originally considered themselves candidates for the top job, would prefer to appoint his friend Alejandro Mancuso and his former teammate Oscar Ruggeri. He wants assistants, he says, who will “accept orders from the head guy, which is me.”
As a result, Maradona has now named his first squad in advance of the November 19 friendly with Scotland without knowing who his assistant coaches will be. The squad selection arguably suggests the influence of Carlos Bilardo, Maradona’s former national team coach and current general manager, who represents another ambiguous point in the polygonal power struggle enclosing the current Argentine setup. No one knows the extent of the influence Bilardo will have over the team, perhaps not even Bilardo, but he’s flying to England with the head coach today in an effort to convince a reluctant Javier Mascherano to accept the captain’s armband.
Personally, I think Maradona should have the coaches he wants. I don’t know whether he has any chance of making his run with the team a success, but if he does so I don’t think it will be as a morale-boosting figurehead quietly controlled by Grondona or Bilardo. Let him run things in his own screwy way, and see if alchemy unexpectedly takes place. Otherwise, we’ll never know if he has the makings of a real coach, and the experiment is already doomed.
by Brian Phillips · November 5, 2008