x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Grudge match between Maradona and Olaroiu fans flames

As Ahmed Rizvi reported in The National: 'The fans had been taunting each other online through the past week.' As the ancient saying goes, online taunting helps make the world go around.

Al Wasl's Diego Maradona, left, and Al Ain's Cosmin Olaroiu worked the same touch-line on Saturday night at Al Wasl Sports Complex, but stil do not see eye to eye.
Al Wasl's Diego Maradona, left, and Al Ain's Cosmin Olaroiu worked the same touch-line on Saturday night at Al Wasl Sports Complex, but stil do not see eye to eye.

Sportsmanship can be so lovely as to make me all weepy, but as human beings we also must confess our affinity for snits, tiffs, feuds and bad vibes.

In that vein, football managers Diego Maradona and Cosmin Olaroiu performed an important public service last weekend, taking a league match and revving it with the kind of spite that can cure a good tedium.

They brought a reminder that even while suspense, determination, achievement, civility and passion usually hog all the credit in sport, we must take an occasional timeout to savour the unmistakable value of contempt.

Stadiums so often provide safe vehicles for the release of contempt in all its forms, from grudgingly respectful to totally mouth-foaming.

A run-up to a match can shine for its gentlemanliness between managers, sure, or a run-up to a match can crackle for its rancour between managers. Mutual esteem appeals, but our species long has shown a hankering for those times when the leading actors go all Kardashian on us.

The latter occurred as Olaroiu's Al Ain prepared to visit Maradona's Al Wasl on Saturday, and as Ahmed Rizvi reported in The National: "The fans had been taunting each other online through the past week."

As the ancient saying goes, online taunting helps make the world go around.

To review the recent months, Maradona got peeved last November when he thought Olaroiu celebrated too festively an Al Ain goal in the Etisalat Cup. He found it "rude".

Here came a moment when one of the toughest men in public life, a tough man who climbed all the way from a tough neighbourhood to the tough top of the entire tough world, a man tough enough to score a World Cup goal with his hand and quip about it, a tough-tough-tough guy ... lectured on proper etiquette.

And people wonder why other people sit around motionless on sofas absorbing fat grams while watching this stuff.

(Seriously, I've long since had it with the clampdowns on celebrating in the NFL and American college football, plus the limits in the Premier League. In a world rife with misery, athletes who ruin their future health for our enjoyment have to remember to curb their outpourings of glee after touchdowns or goals because of some meek idea that it might constitute taunting. Ticket-buying customers miss all manner of new dance moves. Why can't we just say that if they refrain from wagging a finger in an opponent's face or dancing upon an opponent's colours, that's not taunting? That's just dancing.)

So after the 2-2 draw Olaroiu said, "I will not bury the hatchet because he does not deserve it" - a fine statement of resiliency amid the cascade of hosannas that forever flow toward the greatest player ever.

This other guy is nobody's fool.

And Maradona said, "I will congratulate him when he wins the league but otherwise I don't have anything for this man" - a fine statement of priorities, still offering the congratulations, upon a victory-seeking planet.

And contempt yet again had swooped in to jazz up a build-up and an aftermath.

Of course, that goes around the world. Would the Liverpool league lull feel so painful if Manchester United were not spending each May squeezing out fresh room in the hardware shelves? Of course not. Some might chafe at that more than the lull itself.

In the United States, Boston and New York long have held hissy fits over baseball, especially before 2004, the year Boston's title drought died aged 86 years.

While the drought breathed and delighted New York Yankees fans, I once walked around Yankee Stadium taking an informal survey: A or B.

CHOICE A: The Yankees win two of the next three World Series, but the Red Sox win the other one, to end the drought.

CHOICE B: Neither wins any of the next three World Series.

"B" won in an 80-20 landslide, suggesting that in certain conditions, contempt can trump favouritism.

Few things bewilder like reading or hearing grave worries that some snit or kerfuffle or grudge will be bad for football, when by crunching the global numbers in 2012 (something you can do while watching fans swoon over a Carlos Tevez hat-trick), we can deduce carefully just what could be bad for football: Nothing!

So last Saturday night in Dubai, Maradona sustained his amusing litany of squabbles and umbrages and did not shake Olaroiu's hand.

Olaroiu manifestly did not sob over it.

The whole scene must have been something to witness. I spent that evening in Abu Dhabi watching jiu-jitsu athletes profoundly respectful of one another.

That, too, compelled.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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