Maradona goes off on Pele
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
PRETORIA – It was an explosive day at the World Cup, the first since the tournament began.
The biggest blast Wednesday came with Spain’s loss to Switzerland. In one of the more entertaining games of the tournament, the Swiss scored early then somehow managed to withstand unrelenting Spanish pressure to win 1-0.
But earlier in the day, there was an explosion of the verbal kind in Pretoria. And Diego Maradona, surprise, surprise, was the one lobbing the hand grenade.
Maradona, Argentina’s combative manager, continued his running battle with Brazilian soccer legend Pele at a press conference in Pretoria. The two of them have been taking pot shots at each other for years.
You never know what will come out of Maradona’s mouth. He certainly isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.
Maradona was upset at a quote attributed to Pele that said Maradona took the job as manager only because he needed the money.
Maradona fired back, saying Pele “should go back to the museum.” He then took on UEFA president and former French star Michel Platini.
Maradona is a sensitive sort and took exception to comments attributed to Platini about his ability to coach.
“Platini? I'm not surprised. I've always had a very distant relationship with him,” Maradona said. “It's always just hello and goodbye, nothing more than that.
“We all know how the French are, and Platini is French, and he believes he is better than the rest.”
Maradona is preparing his team for a meeting with South Korea Thursday. And his team has come under criticism for its play so perhaps the outburst isn’t entirely surprising. An attempt to deflect some of the heat on his players, perhaps.
Maradona was asked about what has been a very defensive World Cup and said he believed there will be a lot more goals scored. Then he talked about the controversial Jabulani ball and used that for another shot at Platini and Pele.
“And, of course, there's the ball,” he said. “I don't want to go into the ball again because everyone is talking about it, but it is important and it does play a part. I would ask Pelé and Platini to go out there and play with the ball and take a closer look at it to see if it's a good one or bad one, and to stop talking rubbish about me.”
As for the upcoming match, most coaches will be careful about what they say to avoid upsetting the opposition.
South Korea defeated Greece 2-0 in their opener.
“With all due respect, you don't have a (Lionel) Messi,” he said. "South Korea are based on a very strong, collective block. They're very fast. They're an excellent team and should be respected but we are going to win the match.”
Another classic Maradona moment.