ESPN 30 for 30 Soccer Stories: Maradona '86 and The Opposition'
Thuesday 24 April 2014
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“Soccer continues to be the art of the unforeseeable. When you least expect it, the impossible occurs.” In so describing the beautiful game, journalist Eduardo Galeano underscores both its alluring mystery and perpetual hope, while you watch Diego Maradona’s wholly unforeseeable play near the end of the FIFA World Cup in 1986. The grainy, old-TV footage serves as evidence of the impossible occurrence: Maradona, so ready for redemption on 29 June.
Maradona’s readiness for this particular moment is the focus of30 for 30 Soccer Stories: Maradona ‘86, premiering 22 April on ESPN withThe Opposition(both short films are also screening at theTribeca Film Festival this week). A lyrical assembly of found footage under narration taken from Galeano’s wide-ranging historical commentary,Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Sam Blair’s documentary is less about Maradona or the 1986 World Cup than it is about the very idea of the unforeseeable.
As ideas go, it’s pretty abstract, but soccer, and Maradona too, serve as apt vehicles for such meditation. The film opens with a bit of pre-‘86 history, another moment captured on TV, Maradona’s cleats-to-the-chest foul against Italy’s Joao Batista da Silva at the final five minutes mark of the final match in the 1982 World Cup. As Maradona is sent off, looking both vivid and small on screen, the announcer sums up, “The greatest player in the world leaves in disgrace.” Argentina’s loss that day produced outrage, anger, and a fervent desire for another opportunity. Cut ahead to 1985, as Maradona works out with the national team again, determined to capture the title. His “talent was never in question,” Daniel Cerqueira reads from Galeano, “Though his erratic temperament was.”
Even if you know the outcome of Argentina’s return to the World Cup, this time held in Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, the film creates a remarkable set of tensions. Its story of Maradona is the story of so many “erratic temperaments,” pitted against larger forces and yet determined somehow to wrest control, or at least pretend that some control might be possible over the “bouncing ball.” As Maradona finds ways to manipulate the ball, as it comes to him or as he must pursue it, the film suggests that he finds ways also to shape his fate, to follow the 1982 failure with a triumph in 1986. En route to the final match against Germany, the Argentinean team weathers adversity, and even finds a way to win against England in the quarter final, with a goal that even the Argentinean announcer describes as a cheat, as Maradona’s hand visibly touches the ball—more than once, in slow motion. In displaying “a mixture of cockiness and Argentine cunning,” the narrator observes, Maradona is adored, “because of his prodigious acrobatics and because he was a dirty god, a sinner, the most human of the deities.”
The film makes brilliant use of the archival footage, both as proof and more myth-making. Maradona wins, and at film’s end, appears bouncing a beach ball globe on his forehead, a bit of imagery that matches and recalls other footage at its start, when he bounces a soccer ball on his forehead. For all his arrogance and aggression, for all his investment in the game, Maradona also reflects on the game, on the investment, in a quotation the film offers as a final screen. For all the joy of victory, for all the heroism associated with it, he says, “By winning the World Cup, we didn’t change the world, we didn’t bring down the price of bread. It was a lovely thought that football players can solve people’s problems; I wish we could. We’d all be better off.”
Image from30 for 30 Soccer Stories: The Opposition
This wish is put to another sort of test inThe Opposition, Ezra Edelman and Jeffrey Plunkett’s look back at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, which set West Germany against Chile. This was the first World Cup when a players was sent off with a red card, that player being Chilean forward Carlos Caszély. His route to that moment is as circuitous and harrowing as can be imagined, shaped by the most egregious of larger forces, including the United States government.
Caszély’s team lost in 1974, but his red card and their play turn out to be mere details. The broader context has to do with the stadium where the team was supposed to play off against Russia for a chance to go to the World Cup in Munich. The political dramas that altered that stadium’s legacy began with the election of the popular socialist leader Salvador Allende in 1970, and turned irrevocable in 1973, with the US-supported coup d’etat (The Oppositionincludes ugly audio featuring the ever red-scared Nixon and Kissinger, and also asserts that Allende committed suicide with a rifle given him by Fidel Castro, over poignant footage of the president closing a door behind him).
Caszély and teammate Leonardo Véliz recall what followed, specifically, Augusto Pinochet’s use of the National Stadium to detain and torture some 40,000 political prisoners. The film here interviews a couple of survivors of that detention, including journalist Vladimiro Mimica and Jorge Montealegre, a student at the time who was picked up by military police at his home. Their memories, understated and painful, provide an acute counterpoint to those of the players, whose most awful choice was put them them when Russia, knowing like all the world what was going on in the Stadium, refused to send its team for the playoff match and so forfeited the chance to go to Munich.
Caszély and the Chilean team decided otherwise, and, according to FIFA rules, went to the Stadium—while it was being used as a concentration camp—and kicked a single goal to advance. “Eleven of us lined up against nobody,” says Caszély, the moment preserved on film, part of the “big show” ordained by Pinochet and FIFA together. “It was my profession,” laments Véliz. “I wonder what would have happened if in that moment I’d had the courage to resist.” No matter, he goes on, “It’s over. History was written differently.”
And yet, the film proposes no history is without writers, without people responsible. And so here again, Véliz and Caszély bear their burden. When Caszély’s mother was taken and abused by Pinochet’s forces in order to warn him not to speak out while he was in Germany, he writes at least two small pieces of that history, first refusing to shake the dictator’s hand during a photo opportunity with the team arranged before the World Cup, and second, walking off the pitch in Munich following his red card, the first red card ever given in a World Cup.The Oppositionshows the team on line to shake Pinochet’s hand, but not Caszély. It does, however, show the red card and also, the red uniforms worn by the Chilean team, providing a harsh contrast with the green pitch and representing, Véliz remembers now, “a government that had spilled a lot of blood.”
Chelsea trio Jose Mourinho, Rui Faria and Ramires have all been charged with misconduct by the Football Association.
manager Mourinho faces punishment for comments made following the shock
2-1 defeat to Sunderland - his first home defeat in the Premier League
as a manager at Stamford Bridge.
Assistant coach Faria was sent to the stands after berating the match officials following Sunderland's late winner.
Mourinho had to drag Faria away from fourth official Phil Dowd as the hosts' protests turned ugly in the closing stages.
Ramires is now facing a premature end to the season after being
charged with violent conduct for appearing to strike Sebastian Larsson
with a flailing arm to the face. where you can read up on the latest news
Referee Mike Dean took no action at the time, but FA disciplinary
officials have reviewed the footage and he now faces retrospective
The midfielder has already been sent off twice this season, and he
could receive a five-match ban if the latest charge is upheld.
An FA statement read: "The FA has charged three members of Chelsea's
staff following their fixture against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on
"Chelsea midfielder Ramires has been charged by The FA for violent
conduct following an off-the-ball incident that was not seen by the
match officials but caught on video.
"Rui Faria, Chelsea's assistant manager, has been charged with two counts of misconduct.
"It is alleged that in the 83rd minute of the fixture, Faria used
abusive and/or insulting words towards the fourth official (Phil Dowd).
It also alleged that Faria's behaviour following the match referee's
(Mike Dean) request that he leave the technical area amounted to
"Jose Mourinho has been charged with misconduct in respect of post-match comments he made following the fixture.
"It is alleged that Mourinho's comments constitute improper conduct,
in that they call into question the integrity of the referee appointed
to the above fixture and/or the integrity of Mr Mike Riley, general
manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, and/or the
comments bring the game into disrepute."
Ramires has until 6pm on Thursday evening to respond to the charge,
while Mourinho and Faria have until 6pm next Monday to consider their
responses. Follow more at FA.com where you can read up on the latest news Chelsea trio Mourinho, Faria, Ramires charges by FA.
Jose Mourinho refused to answer any questions
and 'congratulated' Mike Dean after Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Sunderland at
"I want to congratulate Mike Dean," the Blues boss said.
"I think his performance was unbelievable, and I think when referees
they have unbelievable performances I think it's fair also that managers
we give them this.
"So fantastic performance, he came here with one objective, the objective of making a fantastic performance and he did that.
"I think it's also fair, congratulations to Mike Riley, because he's
the referees' boss, and what they are doing during the whole season is
fantastic, especially in the last couple of months, especially in
matches involving the teams that were in the title race, it's absolutely
"And I also congratulate Mr Mike Riley, thank you."