Maradona may get monument

2010-07-07 08:24
Immortalised in stone? Diego Maradona. (AP)

Buenos Aires - An Argentine legislator has proposed building a monument to honour Diego Maradona, whose future as Argentina coach has been uncertain since the team was eliminated by Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Juan Cabandie, a member of the lower house of the Argentine congress, sponsored a bill on Tuesday to honour Maradona "as an icon of popular Argentine culture."

One of Maradona's assistant coaches has publicly urged him to stay in the job after the team was thrashed 4-0 by Germany on Saturday. A senior member of the Argentine Football Association has said the decision rests with Maradona, who has yet to make his plans clear.

Maradona has also received encouragement from Argentina President Cristina Fernandez, and on Tuesday two of his players – starting midfielder Angel Di Maria and substitute goalkeeper Mariano Andujar – offered their public support.

"The Argentine people have shown that, when it comes to Maradona, the results are not important," Cabandie said. "Having been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa, in a lopsided loss, thousands of people came to the streets to meet him and his 23 players."

Maradona is reported to be shut away in his house in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza. Some newspaper reports suggest he is depressed and wants to quit.

But his unpredictable nature leads few to say for certain he will step away, with the South American continental championship – the Copa America – just a year away and Argentina the host nation.

Building a monument would officially place Maradona in the pantheon of national icons, joining former President Juan Peron, his second wife Eva, and Carlos Gardel, the most important figure in the history of tango.

Maradona led Argentina to its last World Cup title in 1986, the centerpiece of a career in which he was the greatest player of his generation. The career also had many lows, including the 1994 World Cup where he was banned after testing positive for a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs.

Maradona was appointed national team coach in October 2008 by AFA president Julio Grondona. The tenure has also been a roller coaster.

Argentina struggled to qualify for the World Cup, absorbing embarrassing losses against Bolivia (6-1) and Brazil (3-1). But the team seemed on course in South Africa for a third World Cup title after group-stage wins against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

It defeated Mexico 3-1 in the round of 16, leading Maradona to boast about the team's scoring prowess. Then came the humiliating loss to Germany, which again led many to question Maradona's tactical knowledge.

Though 20 000 fans greeted the team's arrival on Sunday, an online poll by the newspaper Clarin showed 63.1 percent wanted Maradona to quit. Other polls showed similar results.

The last major title for Argentina was the Copa America in 1993. The team also won the World Cup in 1978.

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