Maradona: the Anti-Imperialist Perfect Ten – español
José Steinsleger – La Jornada
Translation: Machetera for Tlaxcala
In journalism schools, when young people learn about the concept of “news,” their teachers resort to a classic example: news is when a person bites a dog, not the other way round. But just this past March in Buenos Aires, Diego Maradona’s dog bit his upper lip, and the news flew round the world.
The star was rushed to emergency surgery (stitches and facial surgery) and experts on the subject turned their attention to the grotesque Bella, a costly example of the Chinese Shar Pei species. With serene, balanced, affable characters, Shar Pei can react unpredictably if one looks them in the eye, face to face.
Whatever he says, or doesn’t say, does or doesn’t do, Maradona is always news. And leaders like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Néstor Kirchner or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad understand that the star’s political messages move the consciousness of the poor and exploited on five continents.
With some disdain, the elite on the left and right agree: he is a diva, alienated, crazy, demagogue, opportunist, degenerate, media phenomenon, cocaine-addict, populist, myth…myth? A myth, I believe, is the sublimation of intellectually inflated references and abstract imagined theories to avoid practical adherence to the real and concrete.
From poverty, to soccer and fame, from the abyss of cocaine and treatment in Cuba for his addiction, the best player of the twentieth century according to FIFA (53.6 percent of those polled) has proven himself to be a generous and grateful man. In 2000, he donated the royalties from his biography “I am Diego” to the people of Cuba and to Fidel, and ever since, he has carried a tattoo of Che on his right arm and one of the Comandante on his left calf.
Liberals can’t stand Maradona. Is it because his speeches barely trouble the powerful? In contrast, the rightwing mob and parrots of world power are alarmed to hear his statements in favor of player unionization (the soccer workers, he says), and the eventual impact that this would have on the businesses in this industry that move billions in cash every second.
In clear, fierce, confrontational struggle, Maradona has leaned on his untouchable fame in order to liberate, upward and to the right, ideals that correspond politically to those below and to the left. And alas, here lies the real substance of his differences with Pelé, the Uncle Tom of global capitalist soccer.
In November of 2005, motivated by the historical presidential summit in Mar del Plata (where the free trade project for the Americas, ALCA, was buried), the people closely followed Maradona’s thinking. Before boarding the so-called ALBA train (the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America), that left from Buenos Aires for Mar del Plata along with then presidential candidate Evo Morales, the musician Manu Chao, and the Serbian film director Emir Kusturica, Diego told the media: “I ask Argentineans to understand that we are heading for dignity, to defend what is ours…It’s a matter of pride to be on this train in order to repudiate the trash that is Bush…If I had him under the goal, I’d tear his head off with a well placed ball.” It was a statement of faith that the obsessed Boca Juniors fans accompanied with bands of street musicians and bass drums.
In December of 2007, after a game with Brazil, Maradona was in the locker room where he met Iran’s charge d’affaires, and expressed his admiration for President Ahmadinejad. “I’ve already met Chávez and Fidel. Now I want to get to know your president…I’m with the Iranians from the bottom of my heart, honestly I say: I’m with the people of Iran.”
Kusturica presented the documentary Maradona at the Cannes film festival in 2008, and spared no praise toward someone who is seen as a god by his followers. He observed: “He creates magical moments. If we were to compare soccer’s popularity in imperial Roman terms, he’d be qualified to be a god.” Which led El Diez [Number Ten] to hurriedly respond that he didn’t feel like a god, “but if the people consider me one, I’m not going to contradict them.” Maradona has altars in his honor in Naples, and after the God-granted goal against England (México, 1986), the Scottish Tartan Army team included him in their anthem. And in Rosario (birthplace of Che and Messi), fans founded the Church of Maradona in 2003, its era beginning in 1960, the year El Diez was born.
Maradona’s political convictions and faith are something to watched. Once, after hearing the Pope and seeing the golden ceilings in St. Peter’s Basilica, his voice echoed down the hallways of the Vatican: “The church – according to the press – assures us that it is worried about poor kids. So: sell the ceilings, man! Do something!”
Understanding something about destiny, the technical director of the Argentinean team dealt calmly with Bella’s bite. And upon seeing that he’d been lodged in Room 606 at the Los Arcos* hospital, he took it as a sign of good luck. Or is there anyone alive who doesn’t know that for Chinese gamblers, the number 6 stands for a dog, in the interpretation of dreams?
*Translator’s note: the Spanish word for a soccer goal is “arco.”
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the author, source, and translator are cited.