Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
INVASION ALERT! With Spain facing Argentina in a friendly, La Liga Loca blogger Tim Stannard has his say on Spanish attitudes to the 'South American' side...
Technically speaking, Spain should be playing Argentina some time in 2013, rather than on Saturday night.
But in the same way as officials handing out Italian passports to Argentinean footballers on their way to Europe can be a tad ‘creative’ in their interpretation of historical facts, the bigwigs in the Spanish FA have decided to open up a brand new time portal by hosting this particular clash of the titans a good four years early.
The fact that Ramón Calderón, the former Real Madrid president and all-round disgraced buffoon, is in charge of organising the premature party may have something to do with the chronological c**k-up, too.
The friendly encounter at Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón is being held to celebrate the Spanish FA’s 100th birthday.
The big problem is that the crest on the international shirts gives 1913 as the date of the foundation of the sporting organisation. So do pretty much all historical documents.
What’s more, the 75th anniversary game, coincidentally a match against Argentina, was held in 1988, 21 years ago.
Despite Marca being all with the Sherlock Holmes and proving that the weekend’s encounter is a big old bogus affair, the Spanish FA have decided to adopt the same approach as they do for all inconvenient issues: do nothing, say nothing and hope everything goes away or people forget about what was wrong in the first place.
And so it comes to pass that Argentina - i.e. Maradona - landed in Madrid, last Monday to be met by hordes of photographers who have been trailing behind the waddling warrior all week as he leads training sessions at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas complex and attends various functions laid on by the local press.
As Diego was not a match official during any of Spain’s games in the 2002 World Cup, fans of La Furia Roja feel little or no animosity towards the Argentinean legend.
Instead, there is the mild suspicion from the curious locals that the former Barcelona player is quite mad and that his tenure as coach of the national team will be an entertaining rollercoaster ride for everyone, but with a Final Destination-style messy ending.
It’s for this reason that the Spanish press have been milking the tubby trainer for all he’s worth.
Not literally, though, unless there's something La Liga Loca doesn't know.
And, as always, it’s Marca leading the way by managing to get Leo Messi, Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano together to give the Barcelona player an award for being great - probably snatched out of Raúl’s hands - and taking a photograph of the trio that “no-one has ever managed before.”
The occasion also gave the chance for everyone to be reminded that Di Stefano is in possession of more passports that Maradona has had hot dinners.
However, the former Madrid player defended his decision to play for any country, anywhere, any time, by huffing that “in the end, I don’t belong to anyone.”
And this will be probably be news to the Argentinean government who are set to make the octogenarian their “ambassador to the world.”
The Barcelona-based press are just hoping that Argentina’s madcap manager doesn’t break Leo Messi’s spirit even more and return him to the Catalan capital as a depressed, stressed-out wreck, as frequently happened during the country’s somewhat fraught World Cup qualifying campaign.
Their general complaint is that Diego simply doesn’t have the hair-ruffling, tummy-stroking, people skills possessed by Pep.
But few do, to be fair.
The papers themselves couldn’t give two hoots about Saturday’s game, considering Spain is involved.
However, it is set to be a fairly important footballing affair and few believe the words of Dirty Gabriel Heinze who claimed this week that the clash was “just a friendly, nothing more.”
The hosts have the chance to put the pain on their South American visitors, as well as call them South American repeatedly - something that always makes Argentinean acquaintances of La Liga Loga wince, seeing as they rather snootily see themselves as a European country jammed next to a barking mad Brazil.
Argentina will be looking to make their smug, fancy-pants, Spanish ‘cousins’ look very silly indeed in their own backyard and move on from their awful experiences in qualifying for South Africa with a handsome win.
However, the phenomenon that is always going to be at the centre of attention on Saturday night, and is sure to outdo whatever ludicrously pompous celebrations the Spanish FA have in mind, is Diego Maradona - a man who will be looking to enjoy every second of his return to the spotlight in Spain.
*You can follow La Liga Loca's Twitter feed, live from the Vicente Calderón, on Saturday night from 21.45.
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No mention of Sara Carbonero.
As a quick update - the Twitterfeed will begin from 20.30. There is come confusion as when the match kicks off tonight. BBC and other international media say 22.00 local time. The Spanish FA says 20.45 and 22.00. But it seems that it starts at 20.45.
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