Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Maradona monument proposed
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- An Argentine legislator has proposed building a monument to honor Diego Maradona, whose future as coach of the national soccer team has been uncertain since it was eliminated in the World Cup quarterfinals by Germany.
Juan Cabandie, a member of the lower house of the Argentine congress, sponsored a bill Tuesday to honor Maradona "as an icon of popular Argentine culture."
One of Maradona's assistant coaches has publicly urged him to stay in the job after the team was routed 4-0 by Germany on Saturday. A senior member of the Argentine Football Association has said the decision rests with Maradona, who has yet to make his plans clear.
Maradona has also received encouragement from Argentina President Cristina Fernandez, and on Tuesday two of his players -- starting midfielder Angel Di Maria and substitute goalkeeper Mariano Andujar -- offered their public support.
"The Argentine people have shown that, when it comes to Maradona, the results are not important," Cabandie said. "Having been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa, in a lopsided loss, thousands of people came to the streets to meet him and his 23 players."
Maradona's unpredictable nature leads few to say for certain he will step away -- and the South American continental championship, the Copa America, will be hosted in Argentina just a year from now.
Building a monument would officially place Maradona in the pantheon of national icons, joining former president Juan Peron; Peron's second wife, Eva; and Carlos Gardel, the most important figure in the history of tango.
Maradona led Argentina to its last World Cup title in 1986, the centerpiece of a career in which he was perhaps the greatest player of his generation. The career also had many lows, including the 1994 World Cup where he was banned after testing positive for a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs.
Maradona was appointed national team coach in October 2008 by AFA president Julio Grondona. The tenure has also been a roller-coaster.
Argentina struggled to qualify for the World Cup, absorbing embarrassing losses against Bolivia (6-1) and Brazil (3-1). But the team seemed on course in South Africa for a third World Cup title after group-stage wins against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.
It defeated Mexico 3-1 in the round of 16, leading Maradona to boast about the team's scoring prowess. Then came the humiliating loss on Saturday to Germany, which again led many to question Maradona's coaching ability.