Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Diego Be Thy Name

Diego Maradona is a living legend. The former soccer star is the most revered athlete in Argentina, and admired around the world. His prowess on the field was truly inspiring, especially his performace during the 1986 World Cup when he single-handedly led Argentina to the title. His off-field exploits have also garnered headlines for decades: drugs, booze, women, tax evasion, mafia buddies, arrests, heart attacks, illegitimate children, fist-fights.....Diego did it all.

But it now seems that Diego is getting a shot at redemption: last week he was named the new coach of the Argentine national soccer team, a move that he called "a dream come true." The news made headlines around the globe. Many have said that Diego is too unprepared, unexperienced, and unstable for the gig (and I agree entirely), but I also feel that the guy deserves a chance. He's lobbied hard for the position, and judging from his attitude at the AFA press conference on Tuesday, he seems determined to do a good job.

I did a story about Diego's new appointment for CNN International, and we filmed some of the segment at the Church of Maradona's annual celebration here in Buenos Aires. Yes, there is a Church of Maradona. It has some 120,000 members worldwide. Essentially, they believe that Diego is GOD, and live their lives as such. You can get married, baptized and blessed in this church. As a sports fan, I find this amusing. As a journalist, I find it amazing. We met some great people at the celebration that night, and filmed some great footage of the procession and prayers.

The party was attended by about 300 people, and it seemed like there were as many journalists there as there were revelers. It was a total clusterfu*k: Photographers and cameramen tripping over each other to get their shots. They came out of the woodwork for this event: journalists from Italy, UK, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Austria, Sweden, and the U.S. were there.

You can watch my CNN story here.

I was just alerted that it was also posted on DeadSpin, the popular U.S. sports blog.

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