‘That b***ard!’ – How Maradona was used by a murderous dictator

first_imgBefore Argentina’s kids travelled to Japan in August 1979, Diego Maradona was just another promising youngster hoping to make his name at the elite level. By the time that team came home with the World Cup in hand, the curly-haired 18-year-old was ready to conquer the planet.Even today, exactly 40 years on, the Albiceleste’s exploits at the second World Youth Championship retain legendary status in Diego’s home nation. For Maradona himself, it was a giant step on a career that would thrill and outrage in almost equal measure.The story in fact begins just over a year earlier in the Buenos Aires suburb of Jose C. Paz. Maradona was just 17, but already boasted two full seasons as a first-teamer with first club Argentinos Juniors and the clamour to include him in the squad for the 1978 World Cup on home soil had reached fever pitch. Article continues below Editors’ Picks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Coach Cesar Luis Menotti, however, turned a deaf ear to those cries. Having earned a place in El Flaco’s 25-man preliminary squad, Diego was informed in the AFA training base that due to inexperience he would not make the final cut. El Grafico journalist Carlos Ares was covering the team in Jose C. Paz and remembers the teenager’s despair at being left out.“That day I stayed for dinner and when I left the base alone it was dark, it was very cold and I heard someone crying,” Ares recalled in the book Vivir en los Medios. “I saw the strongest image I can remember: it was Maradona, sitting next to a tree crying his eyes out. I told him what was obvious: ‘You know how many World Cups you’re going to play, right?’ But he answered me, weeping: ‘How do I tell my dad?’ He said he was never going to forgive Menotti”.“There, when I was left out of the 22-man list, ‘because I was too young’, I started to realise that anger was a fuel for me,” Diego himself wrote in his autobiography. Thankfully for the history of Argentine football, Maradona and Menotti were able to overcome that early setback in their relationship, and when the World Cup-winning coach took the reins of the youth side 12 months later Diego was his star forward and talisman.Qualification for the World Championship was secured in January 1979, when Maradona’s team finished second behind hosts Uruguay; a side inspired by their own magical No.10, future Internacional, Racing Club and Genoa star Ruben Paz. Alongside the Albiceleste prodigy was Ramon Diaz, later to star in Italian football and as player and coach for River Plate; together, the pair made a formidable striking duo.Menotti’s plans for Japan faced early, and potentially serious, hurdles. In 1979 Argentina remained in the grip of a military dictatorship, which would later gain infamy worldwide for its ‘disappearances’ of citizens and the ‘flights of death’ where drugged prisoners were thrown out of planes into the Rio de la Plata.Authorities continued to enforce obligatory military service, known informally as the Colimba (a portmanteau of the Spanish words Run-Clean-Sweep), and six members of the squad were due to enter that year: Juan Simon, Juan Barbas, Gabriel Calderon, Sergio Garcia, Osvaldo Escudero and Maradona himself.Argentina military dictatorship, 1970sAt the end of April the teenager entered induction, which caused him to miss several Argentinos games – not to mention shear his trademark curls. Two weeks later he granted an interview to Argentine state television: “I’m very happy because I’ve been treated well, but always trying to comply as much as I can. I have freedom to keep training and to meet up with the national team.”Thanks to their privileged status, however, not to mention the dictatorship’s fondness of using sporting success for its own ends, Argentina’s young stars were spared the worst privations of military service. “I never stood guard, I didn’t even touch a weapon,” Juan Simon told Clarin of his stint in the Rosario Military District. Barbas added: “I didn’t even get as far as the physical.” By the time of the World Cup Maradona and Co. were given leave from the colimba, on the proviso that they report back for duty once the tournament was over.Argentina’s first test in Japan saw the Albiceleste face footballing novices Indonesia, who were easily dispatched in a 5-0 walkover. Diaz hit a hat-trick, while Maradona chipped in with two goals of his own. But they were made to sweat a little more in the next encounter, a tense clash against Yugoslavia decided by Escudero’s solitary goal.First place in Group B would be decided with a clash against heavyweights Poland, who boasted a host of young talents that would go on to take bronze in the World Cup three years later in Spain and who had breezed past Yugoslavia and Indonesia without conceding a single goal. Nevertheless, it took Maradona just seven minutes to break down the Europeans, firing in a brilliant left-footed effort from outside the area to beat Jacek Kazimierski between the posts.From there a potentially tricky clash was all too simple. Calderon and Simon were both on target before half-time, with Andrzej Palasz also striking for Poland; and after the break Calderon added his second of the game to seal a 4-1 win that was a warning to the rest of the competition. The quarter-finals proved similarly straightforward, Maradona again opening the scoring before Diaz struck with his second hat-trick of the World Championships as Algeria were destroyed 5-0 to book a place in the last four.Like their Rioplatense neighbours, Uruguay had also taken Japan by storm. The Celeste won all four of their opening matches to make the semis, Paz scoring three along the way while keeper Fernando Alves (a future Penarol legend and member of the 1986 and 1990 World Cup squads) remained unbeaten in goal. The two South American sides now clashed in Tokyo in a game that was expected to decide the winner of the competition outright.This time it was Argentina who came out on top. Diaz scored early in the second half with a clinical finish past Alves, before Maradona finished off a blistering counter-attack by heading home the second to kill off the contest. Now only the Soviet Union stood in the way of the Albiceleste and a second world title in as many years.“Men, you are already champions, I don’t care about the result of this game, you have already shown you are the best in the world. No fouls or crazy stuff. Go out, play and entertain the 35,000 Japanese who are in the stands.” With those words, Menotti sent his young charges out on September 7, 1979 in front of a capacity crowd in Tokyo’s National Stadium, which had been enraptured by the Argentine side in general and Maradona in particular over the preceding weeks. They did not disappoint their admirers.Despite falling behind to Igor Ponomarev’s opener, Argentina came roaring back. Hugo Alves levelled 68 minutes in and Diaz completed the comeback moments later, but inevitably it was Maradona who had to have the last word. Ten minutes from time the Argentinos prodigy stepped up to fire in a tremendous free-kick from the edge of the area to make it 3-1, confirming his nation as world champions. Celebrations in Tokyo, though, were short-lived.The dictatorship’s insistence on taking the young team’s achievements as their own marked a slightly bitter post-script to the story. Once back in Buenos Aires the Argentina side took part in a public celebration of the title alongside the murderous de facto president Jorge Videla (pictured below). In a morbid twist, the ceremony was timed to coincide with a visit from the International Court of Human Rights, sent to Argentina to investigate reports of disappearances and other grave violations of international law, countered by a massive campaign declaring that the nation was, in fact, “Human and right”.Maradona and his five colimba colleagues, meanwhile, were forced to resume national service as soon as they returned to Argentine soil, including a meeting with the dictator himself in army headquarters.“Although we were champions of the Youth World Cup in 1979, that bastard Videla used us as an example,” Maradona fired on Instagram in a 2017 post. “He made us cut our hair and do military service. And that was with us bringing him the World Cup from Japan!” Escudero added: “In time we worked out that we had been used.”That forced celebration was particularly galling for Jorge Piaggio, who had seen limited playing time in Japan. Piaggio’s cousin was among those officially labelled ‘detained/disappeared’, having gone missing while carrying out military service in 1978. He remains missing to this day.“Imagine the celebrations in my town and how I was received; a big fuss because a world champion had arrived,” he said later of his return to Argentina. “There I found out that my aunt had been in the square, with [protest group demanding information about those disappeared] the Madres (de la Plaza de Mayo), and that she had been attacked by police. She was in Buenos Aires trying to find out where her son was.“The return from Japan was very strange. We celebrated in Japan and clearly a phone call arrived: ‘You have to come back’. I remember we returned in haste; the Interamerican Human Rights Commission was already there, but we did not know. We didn’t even know who they were. We had all the innocence in the world.”That triumph in 1979 had another, rather happier legacy. As the first major international tournament hosted in Japan the World Championship kindled a new love of football in the country’s population, a phenomenon consolidated the following year when the Intercontinental Cup between Europe and South America’s champions was moved to the far east.Superstars like Zico, Renato Gaucho, Ricardo Bochini and, more recently, the likes of Boca idols Juan Roman Riquelme and Carlos Tevez electrified Japanese fans, with the Xeneize in particular gaining a cult following in the country thanks to their exploits in the first decade of the 21st century in beating Real Madrid and AC Milan. But it all began with Menotti, Maradona and that unforgettable young Argentina team that made the Albiceleste world champions at both senior and junior level.Many of those players, as is inevitable, failed to make much of an impact in their professional careers, leaving Japan 1979 as the pinnacle of their footballing achievements. For Maradona, though, the best – and worst – was still yet to come.last_img read more

The Best Campgrounds Near Major US Cities

first_imgWith the temperatures dropping and the trees beginning to turn, it’s natural to wonder if you made the most of your summer. Or if you might have made too much of it. It’s easy to mess up a perfectly good season with an overpacked schedule. If you could use a few more days to relax, or if you just need one final immersion in nature before winter sets in, you’re in luck. With the help of our friends at Pitchup.com, we’ve scouted a slew of campgrounds that are just an hour outside major U.S. cities.Below are a few of our favorite campgrounds for quick weekend getaways. While none of these campgrounds are what you’d call “backcountry”— they all feature on-site camp stores, laundry and shower facilities, and most offer a common room with TV and Wi-Fi accessibility — they do offer an opportunity to stretch out your summer with an escape to nature before the weather gets inhospitable. And since camping high season is pretty much over in most of the U.S., going now practically guarantees that you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and crisp temperatures in near solitude.If you’re craving a retreat into nature, don’t overthink it. Pack a bag, toss a sleeping bag in your trunk, and hop on the nearest highway to one of these amazing, city-adjacent campgrounds.Cranberry Run CampgroundEast Stroudsburg, PennsylvaniaPitchupAsk any hustling 20- to 30-something New Yorker, and they’ll tell you that the key to thriving in the city is getting out of it sometimes. There’s no better retreat than this 65-acre woodland hollow in the Pocono Mountains. Refresh your soul with a morning canoe trip or a meandering hike along the Delaware River, or just a long daydreaming sesh as you gaze up into the green forest ceiling. If you want to break up the day a little, take a trip into nearby Monroe County and visit the local casino or the indoor flea market.Big cities: New York City, PhildelphiaPrice: $32/night for primitive gravel and earth tent sites; $36/night for FHU gravel and earth trailer sites; $38/night for powered gravel and earth tent sites; $62/night for four-person cabinsOpen April 12 through October 27Mountain Glen RV Park and CampgroundPikeville, TennesseePitchupA short ride out of Nashville will transport you to another world, surrounded by the rolling mountains of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. Perched among these smoky, scenic foothills is Mountain Glen, a quiet slice of heaven such as John Denver might have dreamed of. Along with a fishing pond, private bathrooms (what?!) and free Wi-Fi throughout the grounds, the campground is just fifteen minutes’ drive from Fall Creek Falls State Park, the state’s southeastern showpiece, where you’ll find forests, caves, gorges, and a majestic waterfall crashing 78 meters into a crystal pool.Big city: NashvillePrice: $18/night for primitive grass tent site; $20/night for powered grass tent site; $33/night for FHU grass and gravel trailer site; $61/night for 1 bedroom on-site trailerOpen all yearSt Hazards Waterfront Resort and BreweryMiddle Bass Island, OhioPitchupWho said an island vacation has to be overpriced and hard to get to? This 21-acre resort lies on an island in the middle of Lake Erie, just off the coast of Sandusky, Ohio, and offers fishing access, a private swimming beach, and kayaks and paddleboards for rent, as well as a number of hiking trails to enjoy 360-degree lakefront views. Best of all? There is an onsite microbrewery and tiki bar where you can satisfy the appetite you’ve worked up, plus a hot tub for relaxing under the stars. All just a few hours from Detroit, Toledo, or Cleveland.Big cities: Detroit, Toledo, ClevelandPrice: $14/night for primitive tent siteOpen April 15 through October 15Palm View RV ParkPerris, CaliforniaPitchupJust over an hour from Los Angeles, this desert oasis offers a clean, well-lighted place to escape the 9 to 5. Spend the day on one of the many hiking the quiet desert trails, fishing in one of four nearby lakes, or lounging on a floatie in the pool. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a live music act performing around the fire pit. If you fancy a day trip, you can spend a Sideways type of day at one of the many wineries in neighboring Temecula Valley.Big city: Los AngelesPrice: $25/night for primitive earth tent sites; $34/night for FHU earth sitesOpen all yearWhite Pines CampsitesBarkhamstead, ConnecticutPitchupWe didn’t go to Harvard or Yale, but if we had, this is where we’d have decompressed after exam week. Just an hour from Boston and New Haven, this peaceful woodland site borders on a number of state parks where you can explore forests, waterways, and caves on foot or on a mountain bike. Upscale amenities include an onsite cafe, outdoor pool, and a well-stocked convenience store to supply a gourmet barbecue.Big city: BostonPrice: $35/night for primitive grass and gravel tent sites, 30-amp powered grass and gravel sites (basic, back-in) and 20/30-amp powered grass and gravel trailer sites (basic, woodland); $37/night for 30/50-amp powered grass and gravel trailer sites (woodland, back-in); $74/night for 1-bedroom bunked cabinsOpen April 10 through October 16Cherry Hill ParkCollege Park, MarylandPitchupThis campground is easily the one with most history on our list … which seems fitting, given that it’s just 15 minutes away from downtown Washington, D.C. This former poultry farm began welcoming camping guests back in 1921, and offers a traditional family-style experience today, with rental cabins as well as RV and tent sites. What this campground lacks in remoteness (it’s located within the suburb of College Park), it makes up for in upscale amenities such as two solar-heated pools, a hot tub and sauna, and an on-site cafe. And even though it’s perhaps best suited as a hub for exploring the nation’s capital, there’s still plenty of outdoorsy fun to be had on the grounds’ fishing lake and walking trail.Big city: Washington, D.C.Price: $199/night for bunk 2-bedroom cabins, queen 2-bedroom cabins, and 1-bedroom cabinsOpen all yearHidden Lake Safari Ranch and RV ParkJacksboro, TexasPitchupWho would have guessed that a wildlife reserve exists 90 minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth? Bring your binoculars — you’re likely to encounter a host of native Texas fauna and waterfowl during your stay. The real star, however, is the 20-acre lake that offers license-free fishing for bass, catfish, and perch. You’ll also find fire rings, classic campground games like horseshoes and croquet, and even a fully furnished cedar cabin if you don’t feel like roughing it. They even keep an RV technician on staff, just in case your transportation needs an assist.Big city: Dallas-Fort WorthPrice: $10/night for primitive grass tent sites; $15/night for FHU gravel sitesOpen all year 12 Reasons South Dakota Deserves Your Attention Editors’ Recommendations All 21 Six Flags Parks in the U.S., Ranked How to Sleep Outdoors: Bring the Best Gear for a Good Night’s Sleep 6 Essential Scotch Cocktails That You Need to Know Book a Last-Minute Summer Camping Trip Just About Anywhere With Pitchup last_img read more