The Beautiful Game, A Beautiful Cause: Why I Root for Argentina

Before the start of the World Cup, I broadcast my rooting interest with the obnoxious insistence of a nuclear-powered vuvuzela: Argentina all the way. I wanted Argentina to win because their style of soccer speaks to the full potential of the beautiful game. I wanted Argentina to win because few people in the US could pick Lionel Messi out of a lineup, and he might be the most electrifying athlete on earth. I wanted Argentina to win because their coach, the walking, talking telenovela, Diego Maradona, is just too entertaining to see pushed off the stage


As Dan Wetzel of yahoo sports described Coach Maradona, He screams and cheers. He complains and cajoles. He smiles. He prays. He blesses himself. He hugs. Actually, he hugs a lot. He even kisses his players. Pushing 50 yet wearing earrings and a salt-and-pepper goatee, he remains the biggest presence in the building and that includes his megastar players such as Lionel Messi and Tevez.


In his playing days, Maradona made people reconsider the sacred idea that Pele was surely the greatest player to ever patrol the pitch. He went from soccer superstar to Argentine folk hero during the 1986 World Cup, when he avenged the 1982 British defeat of Argentina in the Falklands War by defeating England in the quarterfinals, with a little help from the "Hand of God."


Maradona's brilliance inspired Eduardo Galeano to write, No one can predict the devilish tricks this inventor of surprises will dream up for the simple joy of throwing the computers off track, tricks he never repeats. He’s not quick, more like a short-legged bull, but he carries the ball sewn to his foot and he’s got eyes all over his body. His acrobatics light up the field....In the frigid soccer of the end of the century, which detests defeat and forbids all fun, that man was one of the few who proved that fantasy can be efficient.


Efficient fantasy is the best way to describe Argentina’s current run to the quarterfinals. In a modern world of robotic soccer stratagems, they play with the wicked grace of decades past. Given that success breeds imitators, I would argue that it is in the best interests of international soccer to see Argentina take it all the way.


For those experiencing this World Cup in the throes of neutrality, there are political reasons to support Argentina as well. This has received next to no media coverage either in their native Argentina or around the world, but the team has fully embraced the courageous group of grandmothers known as Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. This organization is devoted to finding out the truth about the fate of Argentina’s desaparecidosthe people forever imprisoned or disappeared by the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla - during Argentina’s Dirty War of 1976-1983.


At a training session in South Africa, the entire Argentine team unfurled a banner that read, "We Support the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo for the Nobel Peace Prize." The group has in fact been officially nominated for the prize and Abuelas president Estela de Carlotto, is in South Africa, meeting with Nelson Mandela and other world leaders. She has also been publicly and literally - embraced by Maradona. The critical work that Abuelas has done will only receive a greater spotlight if Argentina continues to advance. This makes all those connected with Argentina’s dirty war, who still hold tremendous power in the country, increasingly, and deliciously, apprehensive.


I can certainly understand, and have heard from numerous people, that these kinds of political concerns shouldn’t play into our rooting interests when it comes to the World Cup. It should just be about the game. But this is like wishing a double cheeseburger didn’t have cholesterol. There is simply no sporting event on earth more entangled in politics than this brilliantly bombastic tournament. Anytime you have half the earth tuned in - as colonies play their former colonizers and dictatorships challenge democracies - politics follow like rainbows after rain. As long as politics are part of the mix, we might as well support a team that in addition to epitomizing the beautiful game stands with a beautiful cause. Viva Argentina!

 

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

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Argentina Dave's Guilt-Ridden Guide to the Quarterfinals

Ok gang, here's my guilt-ridden, P.C. bracket for the quarterfinals (i.e. play identity politics, hype South American jingoism, blame America, and patronize third world countries).

Uruguay v. Ghana: Ghana is the only AfriKan country, and I'm feeling guilty about America's Diet Coke and Big Macs. PICK: Ghana.

Netherlands v. Brazil: Tough one! The Dutch are my kind of dope-smoking socialists, but Brazil has Lula! Tip goes to the oppressed South! PICK: Brazil.

Argentina v. Germany: Marxist Maradona against Nazi grandchildren! You know who Argentina Dave wants here, baby! PICK: Argentina.

Paraguay v. Spain/Portugal: Colonized vs. the Colonizers . . . pshaw! PICK: Paraguay.

I need weed to read these articles

Good points JJ.

The Germans did give us the Red Army faction and 99 Luftballoons, too.

I thought about picking the Dutch, what with all the pot and euthanasia and vat taxes.

Brazil's been downer since those Shock Doctrine 'economists' took over.

Still, it's hard for me to get my head around the fact that a South American powerhouse like Brazil might not need our patronizing pity.

It's hard being a leftist sportswriter man.

How the times have changed:

Zirin in one column:

"Why must an insanely miraculous athletic victory also be a reinforcer of cultural supremacy?"

The right will forever try to pump the worst kind of nationalist garbage through our play, even at moments that by all rights should be above and beyond politics

Next column:

"during the 1986 World Cup, when he avenged the 1982 British defeat of Argentina in the Falklands War by defeating England in the quarterfinals"

I'm confused should soccer be above nationalist garbage or not. I guess they should be above nationalism for the US but not for Argentina.

Which fits a self-loathing American writer perfectly.

Revenge!?

GamblingwithArafat:

"during the 1986 World Cup, when he avenged the 1982 British defeat of Argentina in the Falklands War by defeating England in the quarterfinals"

I'm sure that's what Maradona had in mind as he led his team to victory. I'm also sure that Zirin read that mind to perfection while describing the scenario. Do not put anything past a great athlete &/or writer.

re: Dennis Jones

Actually, Dave's just repeating what Maradona himself has said:

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/maradona-admits-hand-of-god-goal-was-revenge-for-falklands-550743.html

But then I'd never put willful ignorance past someone looking for nothing more than to make a cheap shot.

Personally, I think Dave's columns have wonderfully articulated the conflicting mess of emotions of American citizens who care deeply about global justice watching their team play in an event that has finally arrived in Africa, nearly 50 years after Eusebio announced the continent's arrival in international football, but is simultaneously impoverishing the people of the host nation. In this world cup, it seems impossible to separate the ugly from the beautiful, and Dave's writings have captured the nuance and conflict. I suppose, however, that most of the posts here so far are from people who don't actually appreciate what makes the world cup beautiful (hint: it's not the stadiums).

Brazil Wins!

Brazil should win the World Cup and bring a temporary relief for the suffering population!

Brazil Wins!

Brazil should win the World Cup and bring a temporary relief for the suffering population!

Brazil Wins!

Brazil should win the World Cup and bring a temporary relief for the suffering population!

Arg can't beat Brasil

As much as Argentina might epitomize the beauty of the game, I think Brasil does so more. That's why, in a lot of countries, Brasil tends to be everyone's second favorite team after their home team.

bye bye

say bye bye to the Argies....a 4-0 spanking by the Germans....

I root for the Dutch cause they have such a great, open society....much like I wish the USA was more of....

hey football wow

I hope every game ends 0-0 and the players' quarters are bulldozed overnight, give them a taste of what the World Cup is really about

Catalunya

maxwell clark:

The player you love is not Castilian. Puyol is arguably not even Spanish. He is Catalan. and his language, culture, and heritage have been oppressed to the extent that, during Franco's fascist reign, the Catalan language was banned and many Catalans were forced to take on Spanish names. These days, while the Catalan language is freely spoken in public in Barcelona and the rest of occupied Catalunya, Catalan culture and history are still suppressed.

And as for you silly question regarding Mr. Zirin, I, for one, like Dave.

Fake Hublot Watches

Corum watches, as one particular sort of luxurious watches, suggests far more than simply prosperity and standing.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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