Maradona’s Raucous Farewell: A Kick in the Teeth to Argentina’s Interminable Lockdown? – Liberal Article
Plunged into three days of national mourning, queues spanned over a mile in Buenos Aires. At the funeral wake of Diego Maradona, 1 million were expected to pay their respects to the legendary footballer.
Marred by riots, the government organising such a large-scale event made bidding farewell a first-come, first-serve, physical competition. Over seven months of confinement endured, little more than two weeks prior did Argentina emerge from one of the world’s longest quarantines. Doubtless, incidents following Maradona’s death are jarring proof of the unbounded incoherence at the heart of Argentine politics.
By no means am I criticising the celebration of Maradona’s life. Look no further than the streets, a cacophony of choked chants stifled among impassioned sobs, to understand the palpable emotional influence Maradona asserted. Raised in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, his power gave a voice to the poor. Symbolically, when Maradona played, there were no social divisions. Supporters, poor and rich alike, became one.
Yet alarm bells rang at the decision for the wake to take place at the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace. Unpromisingly, what should have been a day of grieving and union was already fated to be pulverised by politicisation.
Until the changes brought about in November, previous coronavirus restrictions in Argentina dictated a ban on memorial services. Maradona’s crowded send-off in an enclosed space, then, is a sneering taunt at more than 30,000 families deprived of the mourning they are owed.
Indeed, it is all too easy to adopt a blinkered point of view. I admit that Argentina’s current president, Alberto Fernández, was left without much choice. An event to honour Maradona was necessary. Even so, though, I cannot help but feel extreme pity for those denied the chance to say goodbye to loved ones. Inadvertently or not, with heed or without, the Argentine government has ethically failed its people, and right under their noses.
A homage of such consequence has perhaps not taken place in Argentina since the death of ex-leader Néstor Kirchner in 2010. In Maradona’s case, protocol was drawn up for one of the country’s largest tributes in just 24 hours. Why, then, did it take seven whole months to organise an even somewhat return of face-to-face classes in schools?
Not to mention the exhaustive discussions prior to Maradona’s wake! Would it take place at La Bombonera, the stadium of successful football club Boca Juniors? What time should it open? How long for? – All a categorical contradiction with the glaring absence of priority given to education.
What strikes me most is just how intrinsic fanaticism is to Argentine identity. Of course, Maradona’s death chips away at the country’s sense of belonging. For Argentinians, it is true that Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 sentimentally recovers the honour lost in the Falklands War.
Neither can one deny that Maradona restored dignity to Italian city Naples, decaying before his transfer to Napoli in 1984. Favourably, this revitalised the South of Italy, allowing its rebound against the contemptuous North. So much so, however, that the overwhelming global pain at Maradona’s death seems to overlook the defects of the figure idolised.
In reality, the lack of precaution taken when opening the wake to the public has not only generated violence in the streets. It has hurled the country’s healthcare system into abject precarity.
As a result of the pandemic, we have seen thousands of companies bankrupted. Thousands stranded away from home. Thousands dying alone due to travel restrictions. Albeit a volte-face impossible to avoid, president Fernandez’s actions are a harrowing reversal of the sacrifices made.
Dubious, I struggle to believe that motives behind Maradona’s commemoration were entirely in the best interest of the social resurgence he inspired. Inept management has clearly upended coronavirus restrictions. And while Fernandez took selfies in the intimate wake setting, he unknowingly confirmed seeking nothing more than a political advantage.
All in all, Maradona’s large-scale farewell highlights a rigid dichotomy in Argentina. Politicians recklessly blunder their way through the world. Common citizens scramble to pick up the pieces of the government’s decadence.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Natasha Tinsley
Point of Information
Be hesitant to ascribe to malice, what can be aptly explained by ineptitude – A Conservative Response
The idea that Maradona could go unmourned, was certainly an impossibility in the minds of all Argentinians. It is difficult to describe how passionate a country Argentina is. It is also difficult to describe how important Maradona was, and still is, to them. That said, Natasha has done so rather well.
I am certainly in agreement with Natasha’s inherent scepticism of politicians. There is no doubt that Fernandez felt deeply that day, but there is also no doubt that he wanted to position himself, with great proximity, to the commemoration. Rather than this being callous, or calculated, I believe it was opportunistic.
In terms of the comparisons between the COVID response and the commemoration: rarely, should one ascribe to malice what can be aptly explained by ineptitude. In terms of COVID responses the world over, we are not short of examples.
Many, far too many, have had to die alone. This repetition of individual tragedy, was borne of governmental panic. Reactive policy, looking to make up ground already lost. If you were in charge of a nation under COVID’s siege, what would you do?
Think about it. For the Argentinian government, the situation is dire. The economy is faltering, a recently released 7-month-confined populace, and an ailing healthcare system. Despite the emotion being despair, rather than happiness, this despair bound together a fracturing nation. Fernandez would have known this, and used this.
Now, a line for the man at the centre of this: Maradona. Celebrated for his footballing genius, and loved profoundly in spite of his vices, it will take a very long time his memory to fade, the most human of Argentinian Gods.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Is the global influence of football on politics justifiable? – A Labour Response
From what I know of Diego Maradona, his football career deserves to be celebrated and his death mourned. He was one of the best players of all time. However, the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic cannot be ignored, impeding almost all memorials and celebrations of life globally. While I resonate with the grief of Maradona’s family and supporters, there should be no sudden exception based on an individual’s success.
Natasha’s coherent comparison between politics and football in this article left me wondering whether the global influence of football on politics is justified? Time and time again it appears as though football takes precedence over many a thing; its power to influence both positively and negatively can occur as fast as a penalty shoot-out can be scored.
Looking specifically at Maradona’s passing and memorial service, the government were admittedly faced with an oxymoron, as Natasha alludes to – do they opt to respect the mourning families of Argentinian citizens who had no option to say goodbye to their loved ones? Or rather do they respect the Maradona’s importance to Argentina and the global football community who’s influence on politics is vast?
I don’t envy this necessary decision by any means. It was, and still is, a very difficult and complex argument. However, to me at least, it appears that the decision was finalised predominantly for political reasons. The Argentinian government failed to stand up for their mourning citizens, but subsequently avoided the wrath of the global influence of the football world.
Maybe it’s because I am not a super loyal fan of football, or maybe I can empathise all too well with the mourning Argentinian families, but I think the safety and respect for citizens should have taken precedence over football. But the latter seemingly always comes first – I am sure this is not the last time this will be the case.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo