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El Diego effect: Charm & chaos

sports Updated: Dec 07, 2008 00:54 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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The match between the Chief Minister's XI and the External Affairs Minister's XI that was part of the felicitation ceremony package for Diego Maradona brought the Argentina coach on his feet every now and then. It wasn't that the quality of football on display was exceptional.

It was just that the hundreds gathered around Maradona blocked his view. The chaos, which was missing throughout the day at the different places the legend touched, was at its depressing worst at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

Even then he knew how to conquer. Waving to the near-capacity stands immediately after getting out of a silver-grey Mercedes, he climbed on the car's roof and waved to compensate for the absence of a raised platform.

His introduction to the players had to be arranged twice. The first time, when Maradona ran into the ground to a thunderous applause to meet the line-ups, it had to be aborted as the large gathering inside the fencing invaded the ground. The second time, the players queued up to meet him.

An elaborate felicitation had been lined up but did not materialise. What was visible from the stands was a huge gathering of heads diagonally below the VIP enclosure. Even if spectators from the stands on the near side could pick up something, those at the far end saw nothing.

Maradona hugged his wax statue after unveiling it, shook hands with it and even tried to kick the ball away from its feet but most of the 80,000 strong crowd missed it.

Missiles started raining from the stands, but nothing changed in the middle. Maradona picked up the microphone and took control. "It feels like home, it feels like my own country."

The stands calmed down, the ones surrounding him didn't. Despite several attempts by Maradona to evade the lensmen, he ended up wandering aimlessly before security personnel jostled around him to escort him inside the car. Signs of breathlessness were showing by then and the enthusiasm with which he had made his entry was gone.

Sparks flew once the programme was over. A section of the disgruntled turnout abused the media and shouted slogans. Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty blamed the media for the chaos.

It was later learnt that the buses that were supposed to bring the two teams to the stadium arrived late as did the kits and jerseys. Of course no one was claimed responsibility for that and the media could not be blamed for it either.