As a fan of Brazilian football (soccer), I find it almost impossible to root for Argentina. They are the worst of the floppers among Latin American countries (rivaling Italy). The Cult of Maradona* is so omnipresent that it is as obnoxious as the “Maradona or Pelé?” debate is ridiculous (short answer: Pelé; long answer: Pelé). There is only one circumstance in which I would ever root for Argentina in the World Cup, and that is if/when they play England. Say this for Argentina’s obnoxious fans: at least they have two World Cup victories to boast about. I’m sure that there are international rivalries fiercer than the Argentina-England rivalry, but with the legacy of the “Hand of God” and extra-sporting matters like the ongoing tensions over the Malvinas/Falklands Islands, that particular rivalry always seems particularly heated to me. So when an English sports journalist says it’s time to give Argentina’s 1978 team its due as a great team, you know it’s a big admission of just how good that 1978 World Cup champion team (which, coincidentally, did not have Maradona on it)was. It’s just too bad that their victory fueled the nationalism of a military regime that was in the process of killing upwards of 30,000 of its own civilians in its “Dirty War.”
*True story: when I visited Buenos Aires a few years back, I caught a game between Boca Juniors, Maradona’s old team, and somebody else. Throughout the entire broadcast, the screen was split into two shots: on the left half of the screen was the actual game; on the right was a camera focused solely on Maradona sitting in the stands, letting everybody see his exact responses and facial expressions throughout the 90-minute game (plus the time between halves). Because why would you want to be able to actually see the game on the full screen, when you could have a poor picture that limited your ability to follow the game on the left, all while watching a single man sitting for an hour and a half?