Argentine football legend Menotti turns 70 Wednesday

November 4th, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Buenos Aires, Nov 4 (DPA) Even 30 years after leading Argentina to its first of two World Cup titles, the name of Cesar Luis Menotti generates mixed emotions in the South American country. Commonly known as El Flaco (the slim one), Menotti turns 70 Wednesday.Those who consider themselves fans of Menotti point to his romantic and cultivated relationship to football while his critics say the 1978 World Cup triumph on home soil was his last notable achievement as a manager.

Some also haven’t forgiven Menotti for the fact that he appeared quite content for Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship of the time, which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of 30,000 civilians, to use the football team’s sporting success for its own benefit.

“The people can be proud to have a president such as you,” Menotti told Junta leader Jorge Videla in 1979 after Argentina’s U-20 side won the world title in Japan.

In his defence, Menotti has always stated that he was unaware of the torture and murder carried out by the military regime and would never have continued in his coaching role had he known the truth.

Menotti told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that there is a lot of mendacity in how his country has dealt with the 1978 victory over the Netherlands in the final.

“Now they are saying that the team was cognisant at the time of the crimes and therefore responsible. It’s as if it was only the team there at the time in Argentina. After the win, millions celebrated and they came from everywhere,” he says.

“When you ask today, the streets were empty and nobody celebrated. We needed four hours to go a couple of kilometres after the triumph. What is this rubbish being spouted?”

As an advocate of attacking football Menotti celebrated his first big success as a manager in 1973 when he led Huracan to the Metropolitano title in Argentina.

But achievements were thin on the ground after the win in 1978 and the success in Japan a year later despite spells at Argentina’s top clubs Boca Juniors, Independiente and River Plate as well as coaching jobs at Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Uruguayan club Penarol.

The chain-smoking Menotti also failed to inspire in his 15-month stint as national coach of Mexico.

Mexico was also the location for his last post in football, when he coached first division side Tecos. However, he only lasted five months in the position, walking out in January of this year after club president Antonio Leano sold Emmanuel Villa to English side Derby County without consultation.

Despite his age, Menotti could yet make a return to football. “I was born in the stadium and I will die in the stadium,” he once said.

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