I love the World Cup! I am by no means a professional soccer fan, but I don’t think that in any way excludes me from being a World Cup fan. I love the ceremony, the celebrating, the national and cultural pride, the characters, and of course, the drinking. It’s fantastic. A good friend pointed out to me last night that her favorite element of watching televised soccer is seeing grown men literally cry after getting elbowed in order to convince the referee that they have been fouled. Unlike in baseball, where the strike zone is determined by a simple formula, or football, where major disputes are settled by video playback, soccer relies heavily on theatrics. Lest you think I am exaggerating, please watch this fantastic video I found, and consider it Exhibit A:

Like I said, one thing I love about soccer is the type of character that the sport produces. My little brother is currently studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I have to give him quite a shout-out for introducing me to my current favorite aspect of the 2010 World Cup; Coach Diego Maradona. I will assume you know nothing about Diego (like me, up until a few weeks ago) and give you the best short-hand biography of the man that I can muster.

Diego Maradona shot to fame back in 1986 when he used his hand to score the game-winning goal in the World Cup vs. England. To those of you new to the sport of soccer, or “football” as it is known elsewhere in the world, the use of hands is strictly forboden.  But the refs didn’t catch it, so the goal stood, and Argentina was hailed as the World Champion. This moment has come to be known as “The Hand of God” in Argentina, and “cheating” elsewhere in the world.

Following this victory, he began what those in Hollywood would call a “downward spiral.” He gained weight. He did drugs. Then he got caught using drugs by FIFA, who promptly suspended him from the sport. He assured his supporters that he and FIFA had an agreement wherein he could use drugs to lose weight and stop embarrassing the league. (“No, we didn’t,” countered FIFA).

More time went by. More drugs, more weight gain, less soccer. He had an illegitimate son. He became a popular TV host. But then, one day about two years ago, he discovered that there was a job opening that appealed to him: coach of the Argentinian National Soccer Team. He applied, and got the gig (Argentinians still fondly and vividly remembered the Hand Of God, after all.) The team went on to qualify for the World Cup that same year, at which point Coach Maradona encouraged members of the press to do something I don’t feel comfortable printing here.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people who pick the teams they align themselves with based on national pride or the chances said team has of winning. Not me. I don’t know enough about soccer to do that. So other than my home team (U-S-A! U-S-A!), I’m Argentina all the way. In fact, I’m Team Maradona all the way.  In case I haven’t convinced you to join me just yet, please note that the man has pledged to run around the Obelisk naked if his team wins. Bam. This is what I mean about getting into soccer mania.