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Where Has Pele Jr. Gone?

I want to remember Diego like this…superhuman

I remember the days gone by.  I remember fondly watching the ’86 World Cup (yes 1986) and seeing Diego Maradona lead a powerful Argentinian team to victory.  It was his coronation.  Diego was the best player in the world (and not like people claiming his countryman Lionel Messi is.  There’s no doubt, he was the best.)  He even led Argentina to another World Cup Final in 1990.  He seemed omnipotent.  It seemed that Pele’s successor had arrived and that with it he brought Argentine Soccer to replace Brazilian soccer as the dominant force in the world.

Then, he aged and fell off the map.  Argentine soccer fell with him (hopefully Leo Messi is the new demi-god there) and then he returned to coach the Argentines.  What genius!  Bring back the best player in the history of your country, one of the two or three best in the history of the sport to resurrect your National Team and National Pride.  Yes!

Fast forward to September 2009.  Diego is on the hot seat, the Argentinians are not playing well, they are in danger of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup (um, that feels almost sacreligious to say), and Diego has skipped the country and taken his girlfriend to a spa in Italy.

I can understand why Diego would not want to face the Argentinian National Club brass and instead left the country.  If you were the most beloved figure in that country’s national sport and you’re not doing well and you have resources and you have (arguably) one of the 2 or 3 best players in the world you would feel humiliated being questioned and peppered with rebuke in your homeland.

However, we cannot excuse his behavior.  The late comedian George Carlin said once [I’m paraphrasing here] “I never got a pink slip.  A guy would come around to my desk and say ‘Get the &^*$&$^% out of here!'” Can’t you imagine the fear that he feels, thinking that this fate awaits him?  I can, but you still can’t run away.

This episode looks really bad, but I believe this situation can be fixed.  Diego needs to return to Argentina, meet with his superiors, apologize, meet with the media and be contrite in his press conference, and then he needs to take the bull by the horns and tell the people of Argentina that he can do this, they can do this, and it WILL be done.

Diego Maradona can, like the Phoenix  rising from the ashes, resurrect this team, a team that comes from a proud tradition and make waves in world soccer.  I know they have to qualify for the World Cup first, but I want nothing more than to see them (and him) perform masterfully.  I don’t know how far they will go, but I’ll be darned if I’m betting against one of the best.

Everyone in Argentina has a right to be mad at Diego, but they also have the privelege of having one of the best leading their men.  They should believe…Superman is still inside Diego….they need to call for their hero just one more time.