[News] Argentina, Maradona, World Cup: It’s More Than Football

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 9 12:45:21 EDT 2010

Argentina, Maradona, World Cup: It’s More Than Football

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/supriyochatterjee>Supriyo Chatterjee

Friday, July 09, 2010

The four German goals that destroyed Argentina’s 
dream of winning the football World Cup this year 
rekindled another: that of the Argentine Right 
and its sinister pointsman, Mauricio Macri. The 
real target of the Argentine Right and its 
allied  “media generals”, as President Cristina 
Fernándes calls them, is Diego Maradona, revered 
in Argentina for his football achievements and 
for his political journey to the Left.

Maradona has since resigned as the team’s 
technical director and the Clarín, the 
unforgiving Right-wing rag, started ripping into 
him. However, the people turned up in thousands 
to cheer the return of the defeated team with two 
slogans to chill the Right's ardour. The first, 
'he who does not jump is English', was a 
throwback to the celebrations of the 1986 victory 
over England in which Maradona entered 
Argentinean legend as a cheeky devil with his 
first, handball goal and as a demi-god with his 
second solo effort, accepted by most people as 
the best World Cup goal. It was seen as revenge 
for defeat in the Malvinas. The second rallying 
cry, 'uh-ah, Maradona no se va' (Maradona's not 
going away), was borrowed from the Venezuelan 
Chávez supporters, of whom Maradona is one.

The President invited the team to the 
presidential palace. The team led by Maradona 
said they were not worthy of the honour. Holding 
back her tears, Cristina Fernándes said they were 
mistaken, they were indeed worthy of it. All this 
might seem melodramatic to outsiders but 
Argentineans live and breathe the game. What 
Eduardo Galeano said of the Uruguayans holds true 
of the neighbouring Argentineans, that they are 
suckers for the beautiful game and are born 
shouting goooaaal. As it happens, Clarín's owner 
was away from the country when the team returned, 
reportedly in the USA, escaping it seems from the 
revelation that her sons were adopted during the 
military dictatorship (1976-1983), brothers whose 
parents were murdered by the military regime. 
President Fernández forced the Argentine Football 
Association to make sure that the World Cup 
matches were accessible to all rather than the 
pay-per-game scheme which would have translated 
into millions of dollars in profit for the Clarin 
media group. Ever since, they have had the 
President and the "golden kid" in their sights.

Mauricio Macri's father, who established himself 
as a fabulously wealthy businessman, made most of 
his money during the dictatorship years. Mauricio 
apparently decided to take to politics while he 
was briefly kidnapped and held for ransom by a 
group of policemen. His family is said to have 
paid a huge fortune for his release. Mauricio 
took over the Boca Juniors football club, where 
Maradona made his name as a precocious youngster 
and a senior player who would not go to the 
rival, well-heeled River Plate for more money. 
Mauricio stabilised the club and this paid him 
political dividends. He was elected Mayor of 
Buenos Aires with most votes coming not only from 
the fashionable neighbourhoods but also the 
poorer parts where most Boca supporters live. As 
the Buenos Aires Mayor, Macri has given early 
hint of what his rule could be like. He has 
unleashed violent police crackdown on 
demonstrations, spied on his rivals and 
colleagues using the capital's notorious police 
force, brought in ex-FBI advisors for them, stood 
by wealthy residents who tried to erect walls to 
keep out the poor from sight, and recently 
admitted that he made some appointments based on 
advice from the CIA and Mossad. Maradona’s Left 
turn imperils the Macri project of becoming 
Argentina's next President on the lines of 
Chile's billionaire President Piñera. Diego has 
defended Cristina Fernándes, who lacks her 
husband, the former President Nestor Kirchner's popularity.

World Cups hold bittersweet memories for 
Argentineans. The 1986 victory in Mexico gave 
them Maradona. The first time they held the Jules 
Rimet trophy was in 1978. The country was then 
ruled by a military dictatorship and dissidents 
were being held and killed a thousand metres away 
from the main stadium. The River Plate stadium 
was being used as a clandestine holding centre. 
Even today, a bad football game in the continent 
is known as a ‘Pinochet’, filling up a football 
stadium for a horror show. Argentina's Dutch 
rivals in the finals were advised not to go. They 
and the others did and the military used the 
victory for its counter-human rights campaign 
with the slogan, “Argentineans are right and 
human”. General Jorge Rafael Videla, the 
architect of the dirty war, is on trial now. His 
policy of making people "disappear" (the 
disappeared were neither dead nor living, he 
clarified at his first trial, they had merely 
dis-a-ppeared) has become a template for the 
coupsters of Latin America. The Dutch crown 
princess, born Máxima Zorreguieta in Buenos 
Aires, is the daughter of the Agriculture 
Minister during the dictatorship and holds dual Dutch-Argentinean citizenship.

In 1978, Juan then 22, was transferred together 
with 15 other political prisoners from the Sierra 
Chica jail to the concentration camp of La Perla 
in Córdoba as hostages to be executed if 
guerrillas committed any attack during the World 
Cup. That group of 16 was kept for the period of 
the championship handcuffed behind their back, 
blindfolded, seated on the floor against the wall 
but with a rare privilege: if Argentina played, 
their guards handcuffed them in front so they 
could celebrate and wave them about when the team 
scored (which they heard over the radio). In June 
1978, Ernesto, then 23 and political prisoner in 
Magdelana jail, was taken out of his cell during 
the night, beaten to pulp with sticks, made to 
bath in freezing water and put through several 
mock executions and later thrown into a 
punishment cell where he stayed squatting for ten 
days because it was too small for him to stand 
up. From that cell, Ernesto heard the cheers of 
the hangmen each time that Mario Kempes tore 
through the other team. Ernesto also celebrated 
but sensed that each Argentine goal could prolong 
his captivity. It was only years later that they 
saw the famous photos of the military junta 
celebrating the title in the palace and 
remembered those goals that they celebrated, and 
suffered, in the darkness of their dungeons.

The Instituto Espacio para la Memoria (Space for 
Memory Institute) tried to heal the wound between 
the footballers who won the Cup and the victims 
of the military regime by hosting the "Other 
Final" in 2008. Among those players present were 
Luque, Villa and Houseman who, like a large part 
of Argentine society, were unaware of the 
magnitude of the massacres. Some of the players 
did not join that act, and indeed criticised it, 
while the then coach, Menotti, stayed away. 
Medals were handed over to the participants 
saying: “In recognition of your participation in 
the ‘Other Final’. The match for life and human 
rights.” Houseman shed tears, Luque was 
noticeably emotional and Villa, pioneer in 
recognising that horror, was at all the 
microphones. Joaquín, Manuel and Sebastián, 
children of Ernesto and Juan, had their Argentine 
shirts signed by the players. Before travelling 
to Cape Town, this Argentinean team had 
themselves photographed holding a huge banner 
saying, 'We support the Mothers of the Plaza (a 
group of women who stood up to the dictatorship) 
for the Nobel Peace Prize'. Would that have been 
possible without Maradona's consent?

Maradona turned to the Left during his worst 
personal crisis while battling a drug addiction. 
He travelled to a detoxification clinic in Cuba 
and Fidel Castro mentored him at that time. 
Today, Maradona sports a Che tattoo on his arm 
and one of Fidel in his calve. The "golden kid" 
was an iconic presence at the 2005 demonstrations 
at Mar del Plata, where he sported a George Bush 
war criminal tee shirt and called him human 
garbage. One of those present at that 
demonstration was a Boca Junior fan who had 
always dreamt of meeting Maradona -- Evo Morales, 
now the Bolivian President. Maradona might not be 
all that stands between the Argentinean Right and 
a presidential victory but "el diez" (the perfect 
one in reference to his No 10 shirt), warts and 
all, is part of the Argentine, Latin American and 
international Left. Even English socialists must feel like jumping at this.

More Latin America reports at 
<http://nuestrosricos.blogspot.com/>Meeting Point 

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