World Cup Digest: Here comes Maradona

Diego Maradona has been pretty much a freak show from the day he was named Argentina’s national coach.

His team played poorly. The media criticized him. When he finally coaxed his underachieving Albiceleste squad into qualifying for the World Cup round of 32, he told members of the media they could, “For those that didn’t believe, those that never believed, they can suck it. And keep on sucking it.”

Come to think of it, a few American football coaches I know would probably like to borrow that line.

FIFA suspended him for two months for his outburst, during which Argentina postponed one exhibition. And then there was the incident with the photographer. Maradona drove over his foot in his car, then shouted at the photographer for being in the way and groused later that the guy didn’t even apologize to him.

Maradona is sporting a regal looking beard these days — but the reason for that is that he needed extensive plastic surgery after being bit in the lip by a pet Shar Pei.

He’s a three-ring circus unto himself. Of course, he always has been. His drug problems were well-publicized, and in his post-playing days he ballooned to 250 pounds before a gastric surgery helped him lose weight.

Finally in Africa for this World Cup, his team turned in a less-than-sharp 1-0 victory over Nigeria in its World Cup opener, and when Pele criticized the team’s play, Maradona said Pele could “go back to the museum.” He fired back at reported criticism from former French captain Michel Platini, saying Platini “thinks of himself as being more than the rest of the world” because he is French.

Platini later sent a letter to Maradona saying his criticism was misstated by journalists.

But today, Argentina turned in the most powerful statement in this tournament yet, dispatching South Korea 4-1. And there won’t be much criticism of Maradona tonight.

After the match, Maradona did some apologizing, then fired a warning shot across South American rival Brazil’s bow.

“I want to say I’m sorry to Platini,” Maradona said after today’s victory. “But not to Pele.”

Of Brazil, which scored a 2-1 victory over North Korea in its opener, Maradona was dismissive, saying it had not yet been tested.

“Brazil played a relaxed game, too relaxed,” Maradona said. “Korea never challenged them. For [goalkeeper] Julie Cesar, it would have been the same to shower or not after the game.”

At first, I was primed to enjoy watching Maradona flail in what I expected to be an eventual Argentinian collapse. But Maradona promises to be just as entertaining in victory. He won’t be dull, you can count on that.

Don’t touch that remote

A troubling story coming out of the Associated Press in South Africa.

JOHANNESBURG — Police say a South African man who wanted to watch a World Cup match instead of a religious program was beaten to death by his family in the northeastern part of the country.

David Makoeya, a 61-year-old man from the small village of Makweya, Limpopo province, fought with his wife and two children for the remote control on Sunday because he wanted to watch Germany play Australia in the World Cup. The others, however, wanted to watch a gospel show.

“He said, ‘No, I want to watch soccer,'” police spokesman Mothemane Malefo said Thursday. “That is when the argument came about.

“In that argument, they started assaulting him.”

Malefo said Makoeya got up to change the channel by hand after being refused the remote control and was attacked by his 68-year-old wife Francina and two children, 36-year-old son Collin and 23-year-old daughter Lebogang.

Malefo said he was not sure what the family used to kill Makoeya.

“It appears they banged his head against the wall,” Malefo said. “They phoned the police only after he was badly injured, but by the time the police arrived the man was already dead.”

All three were arrested Sunday night, but Lebogang was released on $200 bail Tuesday, Malefo said. The other two are still being held in custody.

That’s some old-time religion.

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