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Forget the elections about to be held in the Canada/Mexico area, forget the way the Dow Jones and the FTSE are chasing each other up and down like a pair of territorial squirrels who both want the same tree trunk, something really newsworthy is happening.

Argentina have apparently picked a new manager for their national football team, and it is the one, the only: Diego Maradona.

Employing a man with minimal management experience, who is a drug cheat, a cheat cheat, a political radical, a cocaine user, someone whose weight problem lead to him having a gastric bypass: what could possibly go wrong?

It’s as though they saw Newcastle United pick Kevin Keegan as manager and thought ‘Call that soap opera? Hell, we can do better than that.’

[Seriously, though, watch the video: it’s four and a half minutes of pure joy. Even when he’s scoring against England.]

Links

  • 'The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.'
    (del.icio.us tags: GeorgeOrwell diaries 1930s )
  • Good stuff from Darwin's Beagle diary today: 'Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of the famous tree, which the Indians reverence as a God itself, or as the altar of Walleechu… Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place were countless threads by which various offerings had been suspended.'
    (del.icio.us tags: CharlesDarwin C19th Argentina )

Argentina, Angola, and Africa

Argentina played the most beautiful football yesterday in thrashing Serbia and Montenegro. That’s the kind of play that you watch the World Cup to see – great individual flair combining in a great team performance. Great goals, great skills. It was like a highlight reel. The only thing it lacked to be a true all-time classic was a great opposing team.

You don’t win the World Cup by playing beautiful football in the group stages, of course. No team produces that kind of quality every time they play, and they’ll face tougher opposition. For the time being, you just have to watch and marvel and take joy in the moment.

I also enjoyed watching Angola scrap out a 0-0 draw with Mexico. We’re always told that Americans will never accept football because it’s too low-scoring and they won’t watch sports that end in a draw; and to be fair, it’s not a lot of fun watching a scoreless draw between Fulham and Middlesborough. But on the right day, between the right teams, 0-0 can be a brilliant and exciting result.

And I always like to see the African teams doing well. There aren’t many circumstances in which African countries get to be portrayed in a positive light, let alone compete with the world’s richest countries as equals, but football is one of them. The great African players – Eusebio, Weah, Eto’o – are legends. The assumption always seems to be that an African team couldn’t win the whole tournament, and there’s not (yet) an African footballing superpower to compete with Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Germany, but over the past few World Cups, they’ve consistently produced at least one team that has mounted a serious challenge. And as more and more African players play in the top European leagues, they’re only going to get better. Who knows what they would have achieved already if so many of their countries weren’t having to deal with poverty, corruption and war.

The consensus seems to be that this time, the best teams in Africa haven’t made it to the World Cup, and that the two strongest teams, Ghana and Ivory Coast, were very unlucky in the draw for the groups. So probably this isn’t their year. But as long as they’re in the competition, I’ll be cheering them. Against everyone except England, obviously.

EDIT:Hooray for Ghana, who just whupped the Czechs. That was such a fun game to watch. If they play like that again I’d certainly back them to beat the USA in their third group game, which would probably mean they qualify for the knock-out stages.

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