Argentinean football is in such disarray that a god to many and a liability to some, Diego Maradona, might be called in to clean up
Everywhere Diego Maradona goes and every word he utters generates headlines. But while his genius with a football could never be doubted, many of his decisions away from the pitch have been questionable, so he may not be the first name that springs to mind when appointing someone to restore order within the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
At the centre of the FIFA corruption scandal, a farcically bungled election and now a delayed league start due to rows over television money, the AFA’s reputation is in the dirt.
Certainly Maradona is correct about one thing, “Argentine football, let’s face it, it’s broken.”
“It is broken. [Julio] Grondona took it to the grave,” the 56-year-old said in reference to the AFA’s previous mafia-like boss who sat unchallenged as president from 1979 until his death in 2014.
Had Grondona been alive to face the music, it seems undeniable that one of Sepp Blatter’s oldest allies would have been caught up in FIFA-gate and Maradona has taken considerable glee in telling the world that he was right all along about dodgy Sepp and Don Julio.
This alone doesn’t make him the ideal man to clean up the mess but a little over a week ago, the great number ten confirmed on his Facebook page alongside a photo of himself and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“Now it is official. Finally I can fulfill one of the lifelong dreams to work for a clean and transparent FIFA alongside people who really love football.”
Maradona will supposedly be working as a FIFA ambassador and has already remarked that just as Infantino is overseeing a ‘clean and transparent’ FIFA, he will do the same with the AFA once the FIFA normalisation committee [currently overseeing the AFA] is eventually withdrawn.
‘In the AFA I want honest people, who have not stolen. We need a man with nobility, dignity and who doesn’t want to get rich from football,” Diego explained.
Now, if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound much like Diego Maradona, you’re probably not alone.
These are the qualities that the new FIFA ambassador wants at the top of the AFA once elections deem who is in charge of the failing organisation but interestingly Maradona didn’t even think this of Infantino prior to his election victory.
The outspoken Argentine was firmly behind Prince Ali bin Hussein’s bid for presidency and claimed, “Infantino knew what Blatter and Platini were up to. He’s a traitor. Do you think he didn’t know anything about what was going on? If that’s the case, he’s either stupid or his brain is addled.”
Fast forward to Infantino’s victory and Maradona posts a photo of the two together – “I’m happy because Infantino is a supporter of football players.”
Maradona saying one thing and doing another or contradicting himself is hardly news and the media know that pressing the World Cup winner for his opinion on any subject will likely get an immediate response that will make headlines.
However, for all of Maradona’s passion and straight-talking, FIFA and AFA perhaps need a measured response after the swathes of controversy.
Only in the ten days or so since the Napoli hero confirmed his position, the newspapers have been filled with his strong opinions on Mauro Icardi and how his marriage to Wanda Nara should mean he never plays for Argentina and how Edgardo Bauza is a traitor for even meeting with the Inter striker.
— Goal News (@GoalNews) February 14, 2017
Then Maradona travelled to Madrid to watch his beloved Napoli in the Champions League and there was further controversy when police were called to his hotel after an argument with his girlfriend.
The matter was dismissed as the media stirring up trouble but whether by his own creation or not, drama follows Maradona and the AFA have already seen enough of that.
Polarizing opinion, to some Maradona will always be the face of Argentine football, the hero of 1986 and something of a deity in his homeland but after so many off-field controversies to many his legacy is tainted.
Herein lies the issue – for those that aren’t or are no longer disciples to the church of Maradona, El D10S has become something of a caricature of himself and as FIFA and the AFA try to wrestle back some credibility after years of mismanagement, Diego, with all the best intentions, may not be the best person to do that.
Public image outside Argentina invariably brings up his positive drug test at the 1994 World Cup, his cocaine addiction, his extra-marital affairs or the alleged video of him hitting an ex-girlfriend quicker than it does his footballing exploits and even in Argentina, where a generation still adore him, there are few that could reasonably argue he will fix the AFA. They deny alcohol withdrawal and symptoms, which allegedly followed in the next season.
Yes, the AFA needs reform and it needs a strong personality to shine a light on the murky practices of old but someone who can do that without an ensuing media circus would benefit Argentine football.