Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Argentina’s soccer philosophies more coherent than its political doctrines

  • Print

NEW YORK — Argentina’s history in soccer is every bit as turbulent, if less bloody, than its history in politics. In soccer, three schools of thought have dominated the past 40 years. In politics, two have. But while Argentina’s soccer philosophies are readily identifiable and distinguishable, its political philosophies are slippery and ever changing.

Ask any serious Argentine fan what kind of soccer the national team should play, and you’re likely to hear one of three answers: Menottism, Bilardism or Bielsism. Each represents a former coach, and each comes with a mixture of political and cultural baggage as well as implications for soccer tactics.

Cesar Luis Menotti coached Argentina to its first World Cup victory in 1978, before the advent of Diego Maradona. His was an Aristotelian style that emphasized the realization of players’ maximum creative potential, both to influence results on the field and society off it. He called soccer "a joyous fiesta in which human beings must participate, because it expresses their feelings and delivers the happiness of being alive." He wanted to win, he said, "because my team played better, not because I stopped the other team from playing." For Menotti, soccer was a force for good and could only be played in a positive way.

Not so the soccer of Carlos Bilardo. The coach of Argentina’s World Cup winning side in 1986, he advocated a style that, in dichotomy with Menotti’s, could only be called conservative. He wanted results at all costs, even if that meant stifling his opponents and winning ugly. When Diego Maradona managed the national team in South Africa four years ago, he declared his team would be Javier Mascherano — a defensive destroyer in midfield — and 10 more. "Bilardism has taken hold of me," Maradona said, and indeed Bilardo himself was among the mercurial genius’s advisers during his unsuccessful campaign.

More recent is the school of Marcelo Bielsa, who took Argentina to the final of the Copa America and the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. Known as "El Loco," Bielsa obsessively pored over diagrams and videos, refining his strategies before putting players through technical exercises whose objectives were not always obvious. He found inspiration through research and hard work, searching for mismatches and holes in the enemy’s defences, rather than wispy ideas. Yet his uncompromising intellectual approach came to be seen as almost mystical, inspiring legions of adherents.

Each of these three philosophies bears the name of its inventor, but each also represents a clearly defined set of tenets. Indeed, there is often more red meat in a discussion of Menottism versus Bilardism than a political debate. The reason is simple: The leading political philosophies in Argentina also bear the names of their inventors, but little else.

What, for example, is Peronism? Peronist politicians, from the original Juan Domingo Peron through Carlos Saul Menem, Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, have espoused wildly different policies. Peron was a devoted protectionist; Menem joined the World Trade Organization. Menem privatized industries; Fernandez de Kirchner still struggles to control them.

Even Kirchnerism, the label given to the era of the husband-and-wife presidents, seems to have few goals beyond the preservation of power for their faction. They raise and lower prices, subsidies and exchange rates as it suits them, always trying to spread around enough handouts to maintain their electoral majorities. (In some ways, like the Republicans and Democrats in Washington.)

The Kirchnerists will nominate a new candidate, probably Gov. Daniel Scioli of the province of Buenos Aires, for president in the election next year. Almost certainly, his policies will be quite different from those of Fernandez de Kirchner, who faces a two-term limit. But he will still be the candidate of Kirchnerism, with the full force of their machine behind him.

His lack of a clear party platform will be a liability for the Argentine people, however. There will be no guarantee of the ideals he stands for, and thus no accountability if he strays from them. Hopefully, a clever panelist in the presidential debates will ask Scioli if he’s a Menottist, Bilardist or Bielsist. Then, at least, voters will have some idea of what he stands for.

 

— Foreign Policy

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Huge vigil held in support of Tina Fontaine, Faron Hall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local-(Standup photo)- A wood duck swims through the water with fall refections in Kildonan Park Thursday afternoon.
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BUSINESS - cow on farm owned by cattle farmer Lloyd Buchanan near Argyle Wednesday afternoon -see Larry Kusch's story  January 04/2006

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google