Talk about pressure? How much of it will football legend Diego Maradona face after taking over as head coach of the Argentina national team? And can he even win at all?
The blockbuster news came down Tuesday night from Buenos Aires where Maradona was named as the replacement to Alfio Basile, who stepped down as Albiceleste boss after Argentina’s 1-0 loss to Chile in the 2010 World Cup qualification.
Maradona has next to no coaching experience but he himself threw his name into the discussion about a new coach for the two-time world champions. And the Argentina federation boss Julio Grondona decided on the former superstar to take over.
Maradona will be accompanied by Carlos Bilardo, who coached the Argentine national team from 1983 to 1990, leading the side to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico and the 1990 World Cup final in Italy – both with Maraona as a player.
The former striker, who in 2000 shared FIFA Player of the Century honors with Pele, is probably best known for his “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals against England.
But Maradona also faced personal turmoil, dealing with a cocaine addiction which landed him in detox clinics in Switzerland and Cuba, the latter of which where he spent most of his time between 2002 and 2005.
He also struggled with alcohol abuse until May 2007 when he appeared on Argentina television and declared that he had quit drinking and had not used drugs for two and a half years.
The Argentina national team will need a strong Maradona to lead them to the qualification for South Africa. Argentina started the qualifying campaign with three straight wins but have won only once in their last seven games.
With 16 points, Argentina is in third place seven points behind surprise leaders Paraguay but more importantly three points clear of fifth place – which would mean an extra qualifier against a Concacaf nation.
Talk in the proud South American nation is that Maradona can finally lead Argentina back to the promised land. The Albiceleste has not advanced past the quarterfinals since losing to West Germany in 1990 with Maradona on board.
That will change or Maradona’s legendary status may lose a bit of its gloss.
Good luck Diego.
Check out Diego talking about the Hand of God goalThis is pretty fun – “took the bait” – nice!