Monday, March 30, 2009

Homophobia in soccer, part. 71: Maradona vs. Pelé

Years after retiring, the two greatest soccer players in history are suddenly in the midst of a nasty pissing match.

The latest: Saturday night in Buenos Aires, the national soccer team of Argentina defeated Venezuela in a world cup-qualifying match by a score of 4 to 0.

The crushing win was a redemption of sorts for Diego Armando Maradona (left), a soccer legend who had faced ridicule when he was named coach of the Argentinian national team in October (Saturday's game was his coaching debut).

Maradona had spent the last decade battling drug-addiction and weight gain in a very public way and some felt it was a mistake to hand him the reigns of the team.

Unfortunately, Maradona's big come-back is not the only thing that is making worldwide headlines today. A seventeen second exchange between a reporter and the Argentinian coach on the eve of the game is also raising eyebrows.

Reporter: "I wanted to know your thoughts regarding what Pelé said in the past few days about you being a 'bad role model'..."

Maradona, in Spanish: "No sé. Él debutó con un pibe" [which, literally translated, sounds innocuous enough: "I don't know, he was initiated by a man"].
The Pelé in question, of course, refers to that other soccer legend from Brazil. Last week he'd called Maradona a "bad role model" when asked about his thoughts on Maradona being named coach of Argentina. As for Maradona's response and the 'debut' comment, here is how The Times of London puts it:
When Maradona was asked at a press conference before Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Venezuela to respond to Pelé’s claim that he was a negative influence on children, he said: “What do you want me to say? He lost his virginity to a man.”

In 2000, Maradona accused Pelé, who has advertised male impotence drugs, of having an affair with a male coach, a claim that a close friend of the Brazilian dismissed as the mad rantings of a sick man who was addicted to cocaine. “It was never true but Pelé is a big man and he decided that he would not respond and create a big battle between himself and Maradona,” Celso Grellet said.
More about the feud here.

Questioning a rival's sexuality is pretty par for the course in soccer so this doesn't necessarily shock that much. But what actually took me aback a little was the sound of all the other reporters in the room busting into laughter.


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