Argentina ‘in the hands of God’
“We’re in the hands of God,” some Argentine newspapers said after Diego Maradona was appointed coach of Argentina, a move that has just been confirmed.
Much has been made of Maradona’s lack of experience as a coach but, as former Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino pointed out last week, Maradona was a coach on the pitch during the Italian club’s glory years.
His ability to direct Argentina’s campaign to reach and then win the 2010 World Cup is not the real worry at the start of this new phase in the idol’s life.
Rather, it is his volatile temperament that will be of concern, although there is the hope that he is calmer now that he appears to have come out of the tunnel of excess.
This is a comeback with a difference, because Maradona will have to rely on other players, rather than himself, to produce the magic while he sits on the bench.
He is not so different from the departed Alfio Basile, who prided himself above all in being a good selector of players before sending them out to play according to their feeling for the game.
This is where Carlos Bilardo steps back in, to drill home the set-pieces.
(Bilardo admitted after the successful 1986 World Cup that one aspect he should have given more time to was defending corners and crosses from close to the goalline, like those that brought a goal for Gary Lineker when England came back to 2-1 and nearly equalised in the quarter-final and the two Rudi Voeller strikes that pulled Germany back to 2-2 in the final).
That is the idea AFA President Julio Grondona evidently has in mind in reforming the triangle of the 1986 triumph and a second successive final in 1990 — with himself as overseer.
Narigon (big nose) Bilardo is often also referred to as a loco in Argentina, crazy for his methods, his beliefs and his superstition. Can he revive his skills as a coach while Maradona inspires his successors Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero to match his exploits on the field?
PHOTO: One-month-old Bianca Astilleta is held by her father Sergio after she was “baptised” by The Hand of God church, during the celebration of Maradona’s birthday in a Buenos Aires restaurant, October 30, 2008. Some 250 “Maradonian Church” members gathered to celebrate the start of the year 48 D.D. (“despues de Diego” or “after Diego”) and the appointment of Maradona as new coach of Argentina’s team. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci