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Saturday, November 05, 2005

"I don't think there is anybody bigger or smaller than Maradona."

More news from the religion desk: the Argentine FA are laying the groundwork for St. Diego to take over the national team. For the moment, he'll have an undisclosed role working alongside Jose Pekerman, the current coach. "There's not much to say in terms of what he will or will not do," said Julio Grondona, the AFA president. "He will do whatever is necessary."

Well, we already knew that. The bigger question is, why? Is this just an idiotic play to the sympathies of the faithful?

Maradona has never shown much ability to keep his own life under control, let along manage the lives of others. More important, however, is the issue of whether Maradona has anything to teach. Does anyone really believe that he thought a lot about what he was doing as he sliced through the entire England squad on his way to another goal, just a few minutes after fisting the ball into the net?

It's rare that the most talented people in any performance-driven profession can teach what they do. That's why it's called talent. In most sports, the best coaches were middling players. They had to think their way through every game, and they still do.

Of course, none of this means Maradona has to be a lousy coach. Van Basten has shown with the Netherlands that he's as shrewd on the sideline as he was deadly on the pitch. But think of the guys in a class with them - Pele, Best, Eusebio, di Stefano, Cruyff. How many of them made it as coaches? Only di Stefano, briefly, and Cruyff, who was always known as a thinking player, anyway. Yes, no one but the Dutch Master could have given us this instructive gem: "Before I make a mistake, I don't make that mistake." See, thinking footballer!

Maradona probably wants to be president of Argentina, and maybe he thinks winning a World Cup as a coach will give him a leg up. TDH guesses that the caudillos will have a word or two to say about that. In the meantime, the true reason for the AFA's recruitment of El Pibe de Oro ("Please, please hire me!" "Okay, okay, just leave us alone!") will become clear. Just like Mourinho, his real purpose is to attract so much media attention that no one ever bothers the players.


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