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World Cup: Argentina arrives home but it's only the police who greet the team

July 4, 2010 |  4:20 pm

You have to wonder about the way they do things in Argentina, which, incidentally, will be hosting international soccer's next big event, the 2011 Copa America.

Diego Maradona and his players flew back into Buenos Aires from South Africa on Sunday, but the place looked like East Berlin in the bad old days. Police threw a cordon around the airport and, according to an Associated Press report, "blocked the access highway, allowing only passengers, flight crews and airport workers within two miles of the airport."

Yes, two miles.

The players, coaches and staff were processed through customs and immigration (how many vuvuzelas do you have there, Diego?) on board the Aerolineas Argentinas plane, after which they were taken by bus to the Argentine soccer federation headquarters without so much as stepping inside an airport building.

Exactly what the police feared is unclear. Argentina was trounced, 4-0, by Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday, but otherwise the Albicelestes played well. True, they didn't bring the World Cup back with them, but losing to a red-hot German team in the quarterfinals is hardly a humiliation.

The fact that thousands of fans (or former fans) turned up along the airport highway and outside the federation offices, many carrying signs supporting Maradona, should have been an indication to police that no trouble was likely.

But then again, this is Argentina, where those in uniform have always taken themselves a little too seriously.

-- Grahame L. Jones in Cape Town, South Africa