Argentina FA boss blames presence of Maradona for poor showing

Former star responds by showing Julio ‘Don’ Grondona the finger on television

The president of the Argentina FA has blamed the presence of Diego Maradona in the stands for Argentina's poor showing against Iran in Saturday's Group F clash in Belo Horizonte.

Television cameras regularly cut to the Argentina legend wearing dark shades in the stands at the Estadio Mineirao alongside his daughter Giannini, who was married to Argentina striker Sergio Aguero before they split up last year.

Argentina FA president Julio ‘Don’ Grondona had his own explanation for the team’s terrible performance, blaming it on Maradona’s presence in the stands.

He accused the former star of being 'mufa' – the bringer of bad luck – noting that it was only when he vacated his seat that Lionel Messi scored in injury time at the end of the second half.


Maradona's dignified response was to show Grondona the finger on television saying he had had to leave early to prepare for his World Cup show Va de Zurda – From the Left.

“What I have I made by working, what he has is from Fifa,” he hit back, nodding to the numerous corruption scandals Grondona has been involved in during his 35 years in charge of AFA.

The Argentine press were more concerned with the side’s latest footballing deity after he saved the national team from embarrassment against an Iran side that were unlucky not to get a point at least.

'A God Apart' read the front page of Olé as a homage to the Barcelona star after his superb left-footed strike secured his team's qualification to the knock-out stages.

The goal in injury time had been 'The Final Shot' according to Pagina/12 who said the side's other "unexpected" hero was goalkeeper Sergio Romero whose second-half fingertip save kept his side in a game few expected much difficulty from beforehand.

After all the talk about formations following the unconvincing opening game against Bosnia there is much pondering of what went wrong against Iran.

"There are no magic solutions. Or potions to sort things out. Against Bosnia la Selección had five defenders and only two attackers. Against Iran la Selección, with four men at the back and three up front – just as Messi and the squad's other leaders asked for – had another disappointing performance," noted Clarín.

“Neither 5-3-2 or 4-3-3 resolve things on their own,” argues Juan Pablo Varsky. “It is down to the footballers, those than interpret an idea and a game.”

There is widespread agreement with the post-match observation of Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella that "with Messi, everything is possible". But there is generalised concern at the poor showing of the rest of the squad with Gonzalo Higuaín, Ángel di Maria and Fernando Gago among those criticised.

"Argentina is the only team in the second round that needs to adjust individual and collective performances. It did not get there because of its merits but despite its failings," wrote Marcelo Gantman in La Nacion. "But the World Cup in Brazil already knows that Messi is there. The rest have yet to join him."

Maradona wasn’t the only one to miss Messi’s goal as 19 barrabravas –Argentine football hooligans – were identified by Brazilian police working with their Argentine colleagues and arrested in the stadium at half-time.

Six were identified as the leadership of the hooligan firm of the Pope’s team San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires and are to be deported. The other 13 were released.

Following incidents before the match there were no reports of further trouble in Belo Horizonte on Saturday night. In the early hours of Saturday morning groups of Argentine fans and local Brazilians threw bottles at each other after crowds had spent hours drinking in bars around a public square in the Savassi neighbourhood.

Though the atmosphere over the weekend was largely good-natured the incident reportedly started when some Brazilians reacted by throwing bottles at a group of Argentines singing a song taunting them about Maradona’s defeat of Brazil in the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America