International soccer star Diego Maradona built a reputation as a bad boy, revered for his skill, which allowed teammates and fans to tolerate his antics, stupid statements, and otherwise problematic behavior, both in his playing days and even in his retirement from the game that made his name.
These days it seems Maradona is in the news for all the wrong reasons. His most recent dustup might be one of the worst … and certainly one of the most newsworthy. During a charity match – the Pope’s Match of Peace, to be exact – Maradona took exception to the play of fellow Argentine Juan Sebastian Veron.
This pair had some run-ins in the past but appeared to have patched that up as recently as 2010, when Maradona coached Veron in the World Cup. Appearances to the contrary, some are saying that’s when this trouble actually began. Maradona had a falling out with Veron’s father, then, when the time came to play the World Cup, Maradona kept Veron on the bench longer than the latter felt fair. They exchanged words, and the relationship soured.
For some time the pair traded barbs, but in recent years, the tension was not apparent. Then, in the middle of the game, an explosion. Maradona took a dive; Veron didn’t respond, and the two exchanged words on the pitch, an argument that continued as the two men headed down the tunnel during a break.
Speculation as to what really happened on the field and what happened in the locker room after the game dominated the press conference after the event. Maybe it was the presence of His Holiness, or maybe Maradona took some time to do some soul searching, but the Argentine legend didn’t bite when the press baited him.
“What happened with Veron stays between us. I'm not supposed to talk about a player who I always admired a lot…” This statement was positively mature compared to some of Maradona’s past behavior.
Some are saying they expect there will be more to this, and that Maradona was just being polite for the moment. He has criticized Veron in the press in the past, so that’s certainly not beneath him. From a PR standpoint, though, he may have realized Argentine’s would rather have their heroes standing together than tearing each other down.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.