The sirens of police cars destroy the tranquility of a beach afternoon in Copacabana. At the door of the Royal Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, an operation was carried out to arrest executives of the Match company, in charge of tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A ticket reselling mafia, linked to FIFA, has been clouding the last few weeks of the tournament. An hour and a half from there, Diego Armando Maradona he was getting ready for a new declaration of war against the highest organism of world football. And the newspaper El Comercio was there to tell about it.
Before the grand finale between Germany and Argentina, the press team of the then FIFA president, Joseph blatter, sent a statement of support to the Match company. It was curious because one of the executives of this corporation (Ray Whelan) had been jailed days before when his link with one of the big shots in the resale of tickets was discovered during the World Cup. FIFA’s message could be summed up like this: the problem is not with the organizations but with some bad people. Tremendous prophecy. A year later, with the fall of this entity in the FIFAgate, It was confirmed that the right people were not in Zurich.
-You never forget your first love-
On Barra da TijucaA Rio de Janeiro spa for the upper middle class, it was the international television center for the networks of different countries. We got there to look for Diego Armando Maradona, who was conducting a program with the announcer Victor Hugo Morales. The production was in charge of Venezuelan channel Telesur. Their broadcasts culminated at ten o’clock at night, we arrived at nine o’clock at night, after having covered the match between Germany and France for the quarterfinals at the Maracana stadium.
The IBC of Rio de Janeiro It was the gigantic television studio that FIFA had built for that World Cup. Maradona was finishing one of the last broadcasts of “De Zurda” in Brazil 2014. The security man, dressed in a blue suit and wearing two FIFA credentials around his neck, told us that we had chosen a good day.
In every corner of these corridors it is said that Diego has lost his journalist’s credential, which has been vetoed for his brutal honesty against FIFA. It could be your last night in Rio. It is the 90th minute and the last opportunity to have contact with ‘Peliusa’. The last chance to daydream in a World Cup. The last of the nights to ask the cosmic kite which planet did you come from?
How to attract the attention of an always in a hurry Diego Armando Maradona? How to get him to stop in the midst of so many journalists in a state of emergency? The Diego of the people makes his appearance, always sheltered, and responds to some microphones while trying to jog. We are close to the semifinals of that World Cup.
Diego looks for his assistants to prepare the escape and, before losing sight of him, I give him one of his most beloved shirts. The uniform sky color that lifted him into the clouds. No one can be indifferent when they are reminded of their first love. Maradona has stopped and asks me for the indelible ink pen. Diego is going to sign my shirt with his D10S hand.
-Diego, we brought you the one from Napoli for you to sign.
How nice the shirt is, I even see it a bit retro, don’t you think? (he tells one of his assistants). It is very similar to the one we used in the eighties (while he signs it with an indelible pencil he smiles like a child).
-Are you going to Dubai because FIFA has suspended your credential?
No, I am going to resolve personal issues and sign some contracts. I’m back for the closing of the World Cup, don’t miss me (laughs). I must continue doing “De Zurda”, I love what we are doing there.
-Do you ratify yourself in all your criticisms of FIFA in this World Cup?
I will always criticize FIFA, and soon time will put things in their place. I think that there is little left for some things to be known. They do what they want all the time. With the World Cup, look what he’s doing. Total incompetence. They name the worst referees and the matches get dirty. The Spaniard (Velasco Carballo) from Brazil-Colombia did not see anything. The Brazilian defenders kicked James, the same injury as Neymar. The worst I’ve seen in years.
-How long do you think FIFA will act like this?
Until they leave them, you saw. Recently they did not let Mondragón enter the field with their children and later the Dutch were able to do so. It is a lie that we are all measured equally. But they are already going to fall.
-Do you think Neymar’s injury will affect Brazil emotionally in the semifinal against Germany?
Not only emotionally. Neymar is the total figure of this team and has confirmed it in each game. He is the different boy and without him it will be very difficult for Brazil to compete against Germany. I know the Germans a lot, you have to know how to deal with them. They are competitive animals. What happened to Neymar reminds me of what happened to me in the United States 94. That time, my teammates ended up badly beaten after what they did to me. Those things mark and take you out of the games.
A few days later, Germany beat Brazil 7-1 and Argentina beat the Netherlands on penalties. The last games, Maradona saw them in the stands. His credential was vetoed. Diego Armando’s relationship with FIFA was broken until, twelve months later, the FIFAgate case, involving corruption of senior officials, exploded. Napoli’s light blue shirt shines in a huge painting in the center of my living room. Within his enormous ravings, what cannot be denied to Diego Armando is that he always detected the dark side of FIFA. He was wrong many times (and paid). But no one can refute his most intelligent judgment about football: the ball does not get dirty.