Optimism, backsides, Diego & Viv
ItÃ¢ÂÂs always good to be optimistic at the outset of another World Cup campaign, and former England defender Viv Anderson is certainly optimistic. Four days before the start of the tournament he could be found trying to entice travelling football fans to buy signed copies of his new autobiography outside a bookshop at HeathrowÃ¢ÂÂs Terminal 3.
Unfortunately for him, a great many of the Johannesburg-bound fans at the airport seem to be either American soccer boys or flag-waving Mexicans, but it doesnÃ¢ÂÂt dent his faith in Capello and the England squad. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm confident weÃ¢ÂÂll reach the semis at least,Ã¢ÂÂ he smiles as he signs. Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂve got a good manager and a great team, and Rooney scored in todayÃ¢ÂÂs training game, which helps because he hasnÃ¢ÂÂt scored for six games.Ã¢ÂÂ
When it comes to the World Cup, we have to bow to AndersonÃ¢ÂÂs greater judgement. He certainly knows what heÃ¢ÂÂs talking about. Having travelled to Spain in 1982 and to Mexico in 1986, he was only the second outfield player, after George Eastham in the Sixties, to have been in two England World Cup squads without ever getting onto the pitch. So if anyone can give us a little bit of insight into not winning the World Cup, then itÃ¢ÂÂs Viv Anderson.
Also a veteran of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups Ã¢ÂÂ but with a little more pitch-time Ã¢ÂÂ Diego Maradona has a keener understanding of what it takes to lift that famous trophy, and he has a ton of optimism too, but as an international coach who struggled to inspire his team through World Cup qualification, he's still to convince that this great of the world game has got what it takes to get his message over to a hugely talented squad.
On the training pitch of the Absa Tuks Stadium in a suburb of Pretoria, Maradona is not so much coaching his team to glory as refereeing an informal kickabout. He ambles aimlessly around the pitch with a whistle in his mouth, joking with them, cajoling them, but most of the time he just seems to be ignored by them as they carry on with their game around him.
"Get out of here!"
HeÃ¢ÂÂs slow, jogs with a slight limp, and hardly looks the football god of old, but there are many back in his home country prepared to forgive him almost anything Ã¢ÂÂ even losing the World Cup if it comes to it.
Ã¢ÂÂMost of the Argentinian people donÃ¢ÂÂt like Maradona as a coach,Ã¢ÂÂ admits 29-year-old Nicolas Gonzalez, from Buenos Aires, as he waits patiently outside the training ground for a glimpse of his heroes. Ã¢ÂÂBut we loved him as a player, so we are prepared to forgive him and during the World Cup we are going to support him no matter what. I might have different opinions to him about the team, but during the World Cup he is God.Ã¢ÂÂ
His friend, 27-year-old Martin Urrere from Rosario, agrees. Ã¢ÂÂIf Maradona doesnÃ¢ÂÂt win the World Cup with this team then some people will continue to support him and some people will shout at him like he is the devil. HeÃ¢ÂÂs not a good manager, but I'm one of those that will support him no matter what.Ã¢ÂÂ
Back on the pitch the training session has ended well for Messi and Tevez and their team-mates in the orange bibs. They have roundly defeated the remainder of the squad, and those wearing the blue training tops must now pay a forfeit. Maradona joins the losers on the goalline and together they turn away and provocatively offer up their backsides as a target to the victors, who fire in a barrage of powerfully hit shots from distance.
Apparently itÃ¢ÂÂs a commonplace training ground ritual in Argentina, but you couldnÃ¢ÂÂt really imagine Fabio Capello or Marcello Lippi doing it in the build-up to their World Cup opening games. Or does Maradona really know something about motivation that the worldÃ¢ÂÂs leading coaches have yet to grasp?
Ã¢ÂÂLetÃ¢ÂÂs put it this way, I donÃ¢ÂÂt think any other coaches would be coming here to learn from Maradona,Ã¢ÂÂ says one watching Argentine journalist. Ã¢ÂÂWhat he does is not from the coaching manual, but he has broad shoulders and he wants to fire up the heart of the team.Ã¢ÂÂ
Whether MaradonaÃ¢ÂÂs unusual mix of motivational techniques and coaching tomfoolery will be enough to win the World Cup for Argentina remains to be seen. We'll have to ask Viv Anderson next time, but for the time being it seems that the Argentina players are as forgiving as the fans.
Ã¢ÂÂThe legend of Maradona will always be there,Ã¢ÂÂ says Roma defender Nicolas Burdisso after training, Ã¢ÂÂand he will still be our legend after he finishes being our coach.Ã¢ÂÂ
The question is, how soon will that be?