James Lawton: Dunga and Maradona are worlds apart but together they can shape the future

Diego Maradona bounces around the training field so full of life you wonder if at some point he might rise skywards, like a fabulous balloon, and perform some kind of ritual blessing on his team.

He swears he loves them more passionately than he ever imagined possible when he was appointed coach of Argentina in a firestorm of controversy and disbelief.

Dunga of Brazil could not be more different. Dour and tough as a coach, as he was a player, he stands on the touchline seeing everything and storing all of it away for when he sits down with his players and hammers home again the mantra that defines his impact on the great football nation which still half-reviles him: the past is dead, today is everything.

But if Maradona and Dunga come from different places, maybe even different planets, it is quite extraordinary how they have come here these few weeks to occupy together the centre of the football universe.

An insider in the Brazilian camp yesterday confirmed this growing sense of men who may be shaping a new way of dealing with 21st -century footballers. He also reported a growing view of Maradona that could hardly contradict more profoundly the withering criticisms made by the nation's national god-hero Pele.

The insider says: "Both Dunga and Maradona have never coached before, both were considered the wildest cards and they are relying entirely on their understanding of how it was to be a player, and I have to tell you we are falling in love with Maradona, the life and the joy he has brought to Argentine, and South American, football, and if we have to lose to anyone I think we would be most happy if it is to him.

"You know, people don't understand that in most Brazilian football men there is a closet 'Argie'. In many ways they are like us in the way they play their football, but they have something else too, a bit of the devil, and when a young player puts in hard tackles and goes crazy to win we call him 'Argie'.

"So yes, we love Maradona for what he is doing for his country and for the game. We also think that, with the success of teams like Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile, we have other reasons to feel pride.

"The way we feel now it seems as though Europe has got all the money in football but we have kept its heart and its soul."

Where Dunga isn't trying to compete with Maradona is in the level of overt affection which the reanimated maestro is pouring over his men, especially the key figure Lionel Messi.

Maradona fretted over Messi's retiring nature, his refusal to exert himself in the dressing room and sometimes on the field, and his remedy appears to be working quite beautifully. Messi has been roomed with the old hand Juan Sebastian Veron, who has been told to urge the superstar to be more expressive, more trenchant when expressing his views. It is working out well so far; Messi has rarely looked so feisty in a blue-and-white shirt and the other day he was heard to swear, much to the coach's pleasure.

Maradona has also bestowed conjugal privileges, with wives and "stable partners" rather than prostitutes, at 2am with a bottle of champagne primed – a proviso which has caused much merriment in the dressing room when they consider some of its author's form.

Dunga is the roundhead, the man who puts everything on a player's understanding that his time playing with Brazil is the privilege of his life. "We only have one star in my team," he insists. "The star is the yellow jersey."

Lucio, the great centre-half, says: "It doesn't matter that Dunga hasn't coached before; he learnt everything that was important when he was winning the World Cup as a player in 1994. He told us how it was coming from Italy in 1990, when coins were thrown at the players when they arrived home at Rio airport. He has never forgotten that.

"He hated the idea that Brazil was living in the past, still believing in the football played by Pele and Garrincha and all the others, and not realising it was different times, different players, a different game.

"Now he is the coach but also part of us. Sometimes when I'm on the field I look to the side and I see Dunga and I think, 'Any minute now he is going to come on to the field and start playing with us. You feel his spirit on the field all the time."

The parallels between Dunga and Maradona become a little uncanny in that Brazil and Argentina turned to them in nothing less than outright desperation. The reward for decisions which created uproar in both countries has been impressive overtures on the way to the knockout phase of this World Cup.

Dunga, even those Brazilians who most dislike the functional thrust of his work agree, had most work to do. The sense of team was in ruins four years after the disastrous defence of the title won on a rainy night in Yokohama, when Ronaldo, the last true Brazilian superhero, squeezed out some of the remnants of his scoring talent.

"In Germany it was just terrible," says the Brazilian source. "The training camp was more like a circus, a brothel. Anyone could come and go. When it was over, Dunga took charge and said everything had to change. He set tests for the two most important players. He wanted to see if he could work with them. Kaka passed the test, Ronaldinho didn't. Opinion at home is still mixed. Everyone was lifted up when Brazil played the best football of the World Cup against North Korea for an hour, but of course they are not against a strong team, and when we conceded a goal near the end the knives were out again.

"Still, Dunga just marches on. He believes he is right and fights with the press and the public and says, 'All of that doesn't matter. It is winning that matters.'"

Yesterday, with Robinho on the bench and Kaka suspended, he settled for a slugging, goalless stalemate with Portugal. He wasn't happy with some of the execution. Maradona might have been appalled. But then, as we were saying, they are united only in their passionate desire to get the most from their players. As they do it, they might just be shaping the future of football.

France's shameful conduct reflected in Italian tears

Forget for a moment Thierry Henry's outrageous cheating on the way to this World Cup, and wonder why the exit of Italy was so more much poignant than that of the French.

It is an interesting question because Italy, for all the stupendous achievements over the years, have never been exactly the angel of the game. The defence was cynical to the point of madness, not least when it was orchestrated by the ferocious and misnamed Claudio Gentile. By comparison, the French have generally lit up the game with superior skill.

The best clue to the puzzle may well be found in the picture of the great, time-expired Fabio Cannavaro and his team-mate Fabio Quagliarella at the moment of defeat.

Cannavaro's face might be a skull as he puts his hand across the bowed head of the weeping Quagliarella. The Italians plainly cared. That might be the difference.

Warm welcome on the streets beats any slick PR

So far, and of course these things should not be taken for granted, fear of terrible mayhem on the World Cup streets has been replaced by something a lot more uplifting.

It is the grace and the charm of people who are among the poorest and least encouraged on earth. Each day they come out of the townships and all their perils and deprivations, and they give a welcome that makes the occasional inconvenience an extremely small price indeed.

"No stress, my boss," says the driver Shadrach when you groan in a traffic jam. His subservience is wonderfully ironic and so is his wisdom. BP should make him the chairman of the board.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor