Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Like a group of screaming, goading and bloodthirsty primary school kids, Argentina’s football fans tuned into The Bilardo Hour late on Monday night en masse.
There was going to be a fight, and it was going to be well worth hearing.
For a moment, Argie Bargy felt that it had regressed to bygone years when jumpers were thrown down to make goalposts, when we loved it when plans came together, when Frankie said Relax, and when Ken Bates bought a failing second-division club in west London for £1.
Along with all the other thousands of listeners who had been promised broadcasting gold by Bilardo, this blogger was expecting a classic bout of fisticuffs.
The host had let it be known that he was far from being a happy camper at planet AFA. The Bilardo Hour would be the time and place for the Doc to vent his anger.
Why the aggro, Carlos?
The proverbial poo hit the fan last week before, during, and after the friendly with Catalonia in Barcelona.
Maradona’s right-hand men, Alejandro Mancuso and Hector Enrique, spoke to the nation’s top-selling paper Clarín the day before the match.
"We see things differently," said Mancuso, "both in terms of football and the way we are. We hardly even talk [with Bilardo], apart from hola and chau."
Bilardo didn’t take this well. "Mancuso is trying to cause problems between me and Maradona," said the Doc.
"A lot of things have been said, but I won’t keep quiet any more. I’ll kill the next person who speaks [out]."
A few weeks previously, Bilardo had appeared on Fútbol de Primera TV show and said that there was ‘somebody’ who was causing problems at AFA , but he wouldn’t say who it was.
Mancuso’s interview made the feud public.
While Bilardo took aim at Mancuso, Clarín seemed to think that the National Team Director was fighting a losing battle – Bilardo was against the rest of the world.
Players don’t want him so involved in the team, wrote the paper. Maradona is said to have moved to economy class to avoid sitting next to Bilardo on the flight back home.
In the meantime, Verón said enough was enough, as did Zanetti. Less experienced internationals pretended nothing was going on, to avoid rocking the boat and risk future call-ups.
Bilardo kept repeating his mantra - "I’ll say what I have to say on my radio show."
Maradona is indirectly quoted (remember he’s banned by FIFA from doing anything related to football) as wanting to know whether Bilardo was looking to get more listeners for his program.
As The Bilardo Hour neared, and expectations of a bloodbath heightened, so the headmaster stepped in. AFA president Julio Grondona summoned his pupils and brought them in line.
By the time Bilardo came on air, the news had already filtered through. "Everything’s fine," was the message from the Doc.
There was a long, frank and open discussion about recent events, according to Bilardo, and things are all sorted.
There was no fight. Not one accusation. Not a single criticism. Nothing. Todo bien.
Hopefully, for the sake of the national team, the in-fighting and power struggles surrounding the national team are indeed over, because they won’t have a chance at South Africa if this civil war continues.
Has Grondona waved his magic wand and sorted this mess out? Maybe. Or maybe the madre of all rucks is still waiting to happen.
Stay tuned to The Bilardo Hour.
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