|Our Lady of Guadalupe|
There is a very silly film called "Mike Bassett: England Manager", in which, for example, two players from the lower leagues called 'Benson' and 'Hedges' end up in the England team, because Bassett writes his team selection on the back of a cigarette packet. Well, Maradona's goal might have been scrubbed out of the script, for being too stupid. After he scored he was shouting at his team-mates, who knew he'd cheated, to come and hug him, to make it look more authentic. "A little bit the head of Maradona and a little bit the hand of God", as Maradona put it. Last summer i was told about Argentina's last qualifying game for the 2010 World Cup, when Maradona was manager, and they had to beat Peru. I may not get all the details right, but apparently it was pouring with rain, and the scores were level with ten minutes to go. Maradona made a substitution, bringing on a very elderly striker, to huge groans and swearing from the Argentina fans. Then, with about a minute to go - this striker scores the winning goal, giving Argentina qualification. At the final whistle Maradona dived head-long with a huge splash onto the water-logged pitch. Then in the press conference, following an appalling outburst of bad language, he described how he decided to bring the player on, because he could hear the crowd chanting his name!
Since arriving in this wonderful country i've started to form an idea of what made Mexico '86 such a great tournament. It wasn't just the Mexican Waves, or the brilliantly designed 'Aztec' balls. It wasn't just Gary Lineker's goal-hangi...sorry, off-side trap defying goal-mouth incursions, or Maradona's mesmerising run for Argentina's second goal against England, finished off by Terry Butcher (watch the replay). On Sunday morning i got up early to join a procession from the magnificent Cathedral here, to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, two or three miles north. First to arrive was a troupe of young girls, dressed in traditional Mexican costumes, dancing in unison and singing a very beautiful hymn of some kind, possibly in the indigenous Indian language. Then there was a band, of three saxophones, who would echo the melody provided by two trumpets and a trombone, with a great big double bass and a mandolin/banjo type instrument, accompanied by other traditionally-dressed dancers. There were also spectacularly dressed Aztec 'shamans' and other musicians, playing brilliant tunes which i'd never heard before. It was a "special occasion", and i believe this goes to the heart of why Mexico '86 was such a great success. No one does "special occasions" like the people of Mexico.
|Musicians and dancers gathering at 'Zocolo' Cathedral, Mexico City, for procession to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe|
So on Wednesday the 27th of July, the Memorial of an English martyr called Blessed Robert Nutter, i arrived at last in Mexico, and trekked from the airport to the Basilica, just over six months after setting off from Walsingham, Norfolk. I'd always hoped to do as much as possible on foot. You might say it's something i have in common with former England cricket captain Nasser Hussein. He didn't always 'walk' either.
Here is the message given by Our Lady to St. Juan Diego;
"Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son; let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folding of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"