I learnt this week of an interview given by Maradona where he was asked whether he understood how some members of the England team felt following his ‘Hand of God’ moment. Did he think they were justified in being angry at being knocked out of a World Cup quarter-final so cruelly? His cheeky reply was that the England team, 20 years earlier, had won a World Cup Final thanks to a goal that did not exist. He did not see anyone complaining about that one.
‘If I were Maradona, I could never be blamed for any wrong’ sang Manu Chao (La Vida Tombola). That’s just it isn’t it? Diego Armando Maradona, the footballing genius, the man of extremes, could be cheeky and outspoken. He could never be wrong, even when he was. We are not all Maradona though.
Konrad Mizzi is definitely no Maradona. The disgraced ex-star of the Labour constellation had to be practically dragged before the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry only to perform the charade of not answering any of the hundreds of questions put to him. ‘I choose not to answer’ was his repeated reply.
The next day a penalty was being taken in the league match between St Andrews and Marsa. In videos doing the round online you can watch a player running up to take the penalty and then a total blackout just as he kicks it. The penalty was being taken during that moment of collective schadenfreude that happened on Saturday evening: a nationwide power cut.
The useless ex-Minister had only just finished his monologue of self-praise outlining his own perceived achievements the day before.
Could Edward Zammit Lewis be like Maradona? He tried his damnedest to come up with the sort of witty reply as Maradona’s when confronted by journalists concerning his trip to Fenech’s Hilton Hotel in Evian (France). Zammit Lewis is no Maradona though. Jason Azzopardi had earlier been outed as having enjoyed the graces of the Fenech’s on another trip abroad. So, all Zammit Lewis could do was fish out the tried and tested tu quoque defence that works so well for our band of amateur politicians.
Amateur is what Robert Abela’s battle against COVID-19 is turning out to be. The man who denied the possibility of any second wave this summer is now reduced to promising ‘business as usual’ in May 2021. ‘Business as usual’ has been his slogan all along ever since taking over from the disgraced other holidaymaker from Fenech’s Evian Hotel. Abela too is no Maradona. He is unable to disguise how far out of his depth he is; there is no skill that could hide the faults.
The noise out there is deafening. This is not the time for ‘business as usual’. The global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt long after Abela’s optimistic May deadline. As the idols of the old world seem to be leaving us one after the other, we seem to be unprepared for the new post-COVID world and the challenges that it may bring. Life is a raffle, Manu Chao tells us, and we need to keep playing to win. Yet we are not all Maradona.
I was appalled by the behaviour of (what should be) our independent media at the start of last week. A number of media houses took umbrage following a report by The Shift concerning the dangers of government-managed COVID-19 funds for the press. The gist of the report was that the government should not be the purse-holder for institutions that are supposed to be constantly alert and keeping it in check. If it has to be done, then such funds should be distributed openly and transparently.
The reaction was a collective ganging-up on The Shift. In my eyes, the worst part was not really a non-statement forced on the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) by the media houses in what can best be described as a joint hissy fit. Rather, what shocked me was the wanton abandon with which journalists employed by these houses were let loose in a game of Shift-bashing. Who needs SLAPP suits with friends like these?
The Shift report did what you would expect from accountable journalism: it exposed possible deficiencies in the press milieu in Malta. These deficiencies are the kind of problem that pokes holes into our system of rule of law. That fellow members of the press would choose to turn Donald Trump on their colleagues using the worst of the ex-President’s denigratory vocabulary to shoot on their own kind is worrying.
It is a huge own goal that does not inspire confidence in the wider media picture as we stand. Here too much work is needed.
“I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me and no one came, … I told them, ‘Come hug me or the referee isn’t going to allow it.‘ – Diego Armando Maradona