His face is more
gaunt, more creased than it was during his days with the New York Cosmos, but
his eyes still flicker as restlessly as they did at Giants Stadium, where
photographers used to complain that they could never get a good action shot of
him because his peripheral vision always kept him out of entanglements. A
decade later Franz Beckenbauer hasn't lost any of his old touch.
On Sunday night,
after the team he manages, West Germany, squeaked past Argentina 1-0 to win the
World Cup, Beckenbauer nimbly evaded any suggestion that the victory at Olympic
Stadium in Rome was perhaps a little thin, that his team, up against weak
opposition, was a tad lacking in imagination. Beckenbauer has always been a
pragmatist. What did it matter to him that this was perhaps the ugliest, most
frustrating final in World Cup history? West Germany was now Weltmeister,
champion of the world.
The only time
Beckenbauer showed a hint of passion was when he spoke of the probability that
in the next World Cup there would not be a West German team, but a single,
united German side. "We will have a broader choice of players," he
began. Then, uncharacteristically, his voice grew higher. "We are Number
One in the world as it is!" he said. "And—I'm sorry about this—in the
future the Germans will be unbeatable."
A month earlier a
giant video screen had been installed in Berlin a few blocks from the Wall. Two
or three hundred Berliners, from East and West, showed up to watch West
Germany's first game, against Yugoslavia. But on Sunday night there were
thousands of viewers, including many East Germans wrapped in the black, yellow
and red of the Federal Republic. "There is only one German team," said
one fan, "and that is in Italy."
After the final
whistle more than 100,000 fans poured into the central city, waving flags and
dancing in the streets. Joy soon turned to panic, however, when several hundred
right wing skinheads tore through East Berlin's Alexanderplatz, swinging clubs
and chasing Vietnamese workers. Carrying the red, white and black banners of
imperial Germany and snapping the stiff-armed Nazi salute, the hooligans
smashed store windows and shouted, "Foreigners to the gas ovens."
Similar outbreaks of violence were reported in Hamburg and Bielefeld. Four
people were killed in traffic accidents during the celebrations, and hundreds
of others were injured.
In truth, aside
from the outcome, not much happened on the field to evoke such strong passions.
From the start, the West Germans mounted a heavy, though largely ineffective,
attack. With their Sturmduo of strikers, Rudi V�ller and J�rgen Klinsmann,
leading the charge, and with Andreas Brehme tearing upfield from the fullback
position, the West Germans opened up gaping holes in Argentina's defense, but
they failed to capitalize on a myriad of scoring opportunities.
Before the game
Argentina's Diego Maradona had said, with unjustified arrogance, "We needed
a miracle to beat Brazil, but now we need no more help." The Argentines,
though, were hurting. Because of the ruthless manner in which they had played
in earlier games—committing 152 fouls, or one for every 3:57 of playing
time—they were missing four key starters, banished for accumulating two yellow
cards in previous games. They were defender Sergio Batista, midfielders Ricardo
Giusti and Julio Olarticoechea, and, most important, striker Claudio Caniggia,
who had scored the game-tying goal in Argentina's semifinal victory over Italy.
Without Caniggia to take advantage of Maradona's scheming, Diego would have to
do it all himself. That didn't seem to faze him. He's been doing that, he said,
"ever since I was a kid playing for Los Cebollitas ["the Little
Onions"] in Buenos Aires." How appropriate, since throughout the
tournament Maradona had behaved as if he were still a child. It's a sure thing
that if he had been wearing a Union Jack T-shirt last Thursday night, he would
never have made the final game—the Italian authorities would have deported him
as a hooligan.
Maradona's younger brother, Lalo, borrowed one of Diego's two Ferraris and took
Maradona's brother-in-law, Gabriele Esposito, for a ride near Argentina's
training camp, Trigoria, on the southern edge of Rome. However, just outside of
the camp, the carabinieri stopped Lalo; when they discovered that he didn't
have a driver's license or an ID, they suspected that he had stolen the car.
Lalo persuaded the police to take him and Gabriele back to the camp, where
Maradona's wife, Claudia, vouched for them, and the incident seemed closed. But
at that point Diego emerged from the locker room screaming something about
vigilantes infesting the camp. Soon a brawl broke out as Diego, Lalo and
Gabriele hurled themselves at the police. It took several people to restrain
the three of them, and the police had to radio for reinforcements.
The next morning,
newspapers all over the world carried pictures of Maradona being forcibly held
back. A security guard had been taken to the hospital for a few hours with
minor injuries, and a judicial inquiry was scheduled—after the World Cup, of
course. In the meantime Maradona was seeing conspiracies everywhere. On Friday
night somebody tore the Argentine flag off its pole at the training camp. It
had been taken by no mere souvenir hunter, proclaimed Maradona, but by somebody
with malicious intent. "We made a mistake choosing Trigoria as our
camp," he told manager Carlos Bilardo.
though, the pressures on Maradona were huge. Four years before, in Mexico City,
he had been a dominating superstar, a virtually unstoppable talent. Said Ron
Greenwood, a former manager of England, before the final in '86, "Stop
Maradona? First you take a small handgun...." But in Italy, Maradona was a
decidedly lesser force. To his critics, even before the final, he was little
more than a cripple with battered knees and ankles. He would score no
"real" goals in the tournament, only a penalty kick in a shootout. And
for all his flashes of brilliance, he has a tendency to cheat. In Mexico City,
he knocked in a key goal with his hand in a quarterfinal match against England
and got away with it. And in the first round of this tournament, he deflected a
shot with his hand in the penalty area, denying the Soviet Union a goal. This
is the Maradona who falls down writhing every time he is tackled and who runs
into defenders and collapses, hoping to trick referees into ejecting them. This
is the Maradona who has at once elevated the game and devalued it.