A massacre of managers

Published : Aug 19, 2010 00:00 IST

North Korean head coach Kim Jong-hun has faced the most savage of punishments for his side's World Cup debacle.-Pics: AP
North Korean head coach Kim Jong-hun has faced the most savage of punishments for his side's World Cup debacle.-Pics: AP

North Korean head coach Kim Jong-hun has faced the most savage of punishments for his side's World Cup debacle.-Pics: AP

Other truncated managers were substantially less maltreated than North Korea's Kim Jong-hun, though listening to the outcry of Diego Maradona, you might almost have been forgiven for thinking so. Over to Brian Glanville.

Barely had the World Cup ended — indeed in some cases it hadn't even ended — that team managers were falling like flies. Though none so hard as poor Kim Jong-hun, coach to North Korea, whose team after such a bright beginning against Brazil, crashed so surprisingly, 0-7, against Portugal. He was arraigned in front of 400 hostile critics, including the 23 players of his squad who themselves were subjected to abuse. Among these implacable 400 were officials, of course, students and athletes. The tirade lasted a full six hours; after which he was not only booted out of his job, but sent to work indefinitely, unpaid, on a building site.

The barbaric cruelty of that nasty little dictatorship is all too well known, a regime that starves its populace but, alas, has nuclear weapons. Yet, however, the North Koreans came to grief against Portugal, and I still find it hard to understand, at least their manager got them all the way to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1966. When, you will recall, they also went out to Portugal, but in such very different circumstances. Racing to a dramatic 3-0 lead in the quarterfinals in Sheffield only to be undone by a rampant Eusebio who scored four of his team's eventual five goals.

Other truncated managers were substantially less maltreated than Kim Jong-hun, though listening to the outcry of Diego Maradona, you might almost have been forgiven for thinking so.

At the end of Argentina's World Cup run, when they were simply taken apart by an irresistible Germany and thrashed 4-0, it still seemed that Maradona, who arguably should never have got the job in the first place, might even keep it. His team had, after all, had several impressive victories, even if their 3-1 conquest of Mexico in the second round had been helped by an opening goal scored by Carlos Tevez who was indisputably offside.

But against the Germans, in Johannesburg, you might say that their bluff was called. “This is the hardest thing I've experienced,” said an all but tearful Maradona, after the 4-0 thrashing. A much worse fate than suffered previously by England who, as the German manager, Joachim Loew, charitably said, could even have been thought to have lost 2-4 given the un-awarded Frank Lampard goal.

Argentina's front three failed signally to drop back to help a struggling midfield. The ebullient Thomas Muller scored in three minutes, three more, two of them from Miroslav Klose, came in the second half.

Maradona's original appointment seemed frankly nothing but a whim of the grand panjandrum of Argentine soccer, Carlos Grandona. For all his exploits on the field, Maradona had minimal experience as a manager at club level and in the prolonged South American qualifying tournament, Argentina survived by the skin of their teeth. Their 1-6 thrashing by modest Bolivia on the breathless heights of La Paz would surely have had any ordinary manager kicked out automatically. But Maradona, the favoured son, remained and when his team managed to beat Uruguay in Montevideo in its last qualifier and thus scrape through to South Africa, he obscenely abused the Argentina journalists.

Argentina out of the World Cup, his arrogance was unquenchable. He informed the Argentine Federation and Grandona that were he to stay, it would be on the understanding that the whole of his coaching staff be retained. Not least Oscar Ruggeri, a former rugged centre-back, who had come under criticism. Suddenly he found himself voted out and reacted with an embittered outburst. He had been betrayed, he cried, and chiefly by Carlos Bilardo, the technical director, who had, in fact, been his manager in 1986, when his goals, with foot and hand, had largely given Argentina the world title.

It was known before the World Cup took place that Raymond Domenech would be leaving his French role. He signed off, you might say, deplorably by refusing to shake hands with his South African counterpart, the Brazilian former World Cup winner, Carlos Alberto Parreira. It remains a mystery how he was ever kept in office at all, after the abysmal showing of the French team in the finals of the European Championship.

Within a matter of days, Gerard Houllier, former manager of the France team himself and once in charge of Liverpool, gave two mysteriously conflicting interviews. In the first to a London newspaper, he averred that he was one of the French football hierarchy who confirmed Domenech in office, saying that the players liked him — of which they gave no sign at all during their all too brief stay in the World Cup — and that anyway, there was no one else to choose. Only, days later, to give another interview to the leading French sports paper, in which he asserted that he wanted to be rid of Domenech only to be frustrated by Jean-Pierre Escalettes, the President of the French Federation.

That paper, L'Equipe, is now being sued by the French forward Nicolas Anelka who although he admits that he did abuse Domenech at half time of the match lost to South Africa, he didn't use the obscenities attributed to him! Anelka, of course, was expelled from the squad after his outburst.

Out too goes the Brazilian manager Dunga, never persona grata with the Brazilian media, who thought him altogether too cautious, as indeed he had been, even as a World Cup winning midfielder. Despite receiving an early gift of a goal from a lax Dutch defence in the quarterfinals, Brazil were ground down and knocked out. It was a game in which their midfielder Felipe Melo was sent off on the 73rd minute, by which point, Brazil and their somewhat distracted defence were 1-2 down, after dominating the first half. Dunga might recollect that two previous Brazilian managers, Carlos Parreira (helped by Zagallo when he did win the 1994 World Cup) and the late Cláudio Coutinho were essentially physical preparation men, who wanted to play what they mistakenly called a European game, with an emphasis on muscular challenge. Yet Brazil had dazzled in their win in the second round against Chile, whose own manager, the Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, admitted, “We were unable to slow them down.”

But Fabio Capello remains unscathed with his belated 6-million pound-a-year salary, largely because, shortly before the tournament the FA, worried he might be snapped up by Inter, rescinded the clause whereby either party could close his contract, within two weeks after the end of the competition. So to dismiss him — who had further muddied the water by initiating an abused Capello Index on World Cup players — would have cost the FA hefty money.

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