"You know in football, people are mad. Football makes people mad" says Sepp Blatter. And as you are going to find out, that diagnosis comes from a point of authority.
World in Motion: The Inside Story Of Italia '90 is a new book by journalist Simon Hart, which delves deep into the thesis that the tournament irrevocably changed football. Simon spoke to Balls about exactly that, and the full, 25-minute interview is available as a podcast:
The interview swerved down a delightful tangent when it came to one of the hundred-odd people interviewed for the book: erstwhile FIFA president, Sepp Blatter.
Blatter agreed to speak to Simon, and then proceeded to trumpet his own, post-90' legacy. Following a dreary competition, in which only two games were won by a side falling behind, Blatter wanted to thrust attacking football back to the top of the agenda, and set up a taskforce to do so. He also claims responsibility for introducing the backpass rule following an appalling UAE performance which featured 13 backpasses in the first half-hour.
One man deeply unimpressed with Blatter at the time was one Diego Maradona, who raved in the media of conspiracies against Argentina. The final was decided in controversial circumstances: Argentina had two players sent off while Germany's winning goal came from a dubious penalty awarded to Rudi Voeller.
"There was a black hand at work. It's a shame that I don't have the proof to name names, but a referee can't fail to see the penalty committed on Calderon and then give a penalty for Voeller's fall" said Maradona after the final.
When Simon raised these quotes with Blatter, the conversation took quite a turn. We're quoting here from our interview with the author.
You could say he is probably mindful of his legacy when he agrees to speak to journalists. He was so keen to accentuate the good that came out of the aftermath of '90. He set up the taskforce 2000 to try and get attacking football back on the agenda.
This is somebody who loved the limelight. When he was sitting with me, he was making jokes. At one point he mimicked Maradona snorting cocaine, which you don't expect!
[I responded with] A little bit of awkward laughter! The context was that I asked him about Maradona's claims about this conspiracy. He said that 'Maradona was a very difficult man. I remember being with him in Barcelona at the '92 Olympics when he was trying to persuade FIFA to end the ban he'd been given for cocaine or shorten it [Maradona was banned for 15 months in 1991].
In the room, it must have been very cold because Maradona kept sniffing, sniffing...' and at that point, he [Blatter] did a gesture as if he was snorting cocaine.