In July 1990, a controversial late penalty by Andreas Brehme won the World Cup for Germany and snatched the title from Argentina. As a boy growing up in Buenos Aires, I can still remember vividly Diego Maradona’s inconsolable tears as the selección limped off the pitch of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Those were my tears too. But 24 years later, there is a chance finally to erase that childhood trauma. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany in a World Cup final once again.
As a fan of la albiceleste I can’t really complain. During my lifetime Argentina have won two World Cups, including beating West Germany in the 1986 final, and produced some of the finest players in recent years, from Maradona to today’s hero, Lionel Messi.
I was a year old, and living relatively close to the River Plate stadium, when Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. When they did it again eight years later in Mexico, I was old enough to realise what it meant and to feel the country’s intoxicated joy as Maradona raised the trophy above his head in the sunny Estadio Azteca.
Every year, there is debate at Davos about what is hot – and what is decidedly not. This year, the emerging markets are definitely in the second camp.
Never mind the fact that the streets of Davos are full of cheery posters proclaiming the joys of Malaysia, India or Brazil – or that Nigerian food was being served to Davos delegates at lunch (complete with snail stew.) Also ignore the determinedly upbeat messages emanating from a host of officials from the BRICs nations.
Behind the chirpy smiles, a new mood of anxiety is stalking the emerging markets delegations, amplified by the recent dramas around Argentina. And that marks a stark contrast to recent years, when the emerging markets were regarded as the new saviours of global growth – and their leaders strutted around the Davos corridors with pride.
Janet Yellen’s nomination for the Fed chairmanship is a significant mark in the history of female central bankery – mainly because there isn’t much of a history.
As Claire Jones, the FT’s economics reporter, points out: advanced economy central banks are severely lacking in female representation in their upper echelons.
In other markets, however, women have more of a presence in monetary policy. Outside of advanced economies, the list of women at the head of central banks is longer than the list of women on the ECB governing council (0).
Gill Marcus (Getty)
South Africa: Gill Marcus spent time in the UK as her parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. She joined the ANC and worked for its department of information and publicity, then returned to South Africa after the ANC ban was lifted. She was appointed deputy minister of finance in 1996 and became deputy governor of the South African Reserve bank in 1999. After a few years working outside the central bank system, she was appointed governor in November 2009. In 2010 she said, “Developing countries are more conscious of women’s emancipation – we’ve all got better statistics in relation to gender than in the developed world.“
Cristina Fernández is an aggressive politician with a fragile state of health, which makes for a lousy combination. Credibly diagnosed over the weekend with blood on her brain — a possibly but not necessarily serious condition — doctors have ordered the Argentine president to rest for a month. Just three weeks before mid-term elections, this surprise development has the potential to throw Argentina, its politics and even its creditor discussions wide open. For Ms Fernández it is also a medical misfortune that could, ironically, turn out to be a political gift.
Her government faces a crescendo of problems. Its long-running battle in a New York court with a group of holdout creditors could well end in a technical default. Currency controls are strangling the economy and deterring investment while inflation is running at a privately-estimated 25 per cent (not even ministers believe the official figures.) Corruption scandals are a regular occurrence. Meanwhile, Ms Fernández has also picked a series of fights with her neighbours, most recently Chile and Uruguay, losing Argentina its few remaining international friends. As a result, her ruling coalition is expected to lose big in the mid-term elections on October 27.
♦ The FT’s James Politi visits a military base struggling to cope with the effects of sequestration.
♦ One of the FT’s new readers had some questions about her first edition of the pink paper, including: “Why is George Osborne taking legal action against the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses when it says here that these chaps at ICAP were demanding bonuses in return for manipulating the Libor market?”
♦ Hassan Rouhani has raised hope among his countrymen of a solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.
♦ The ebb in support for Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández has been matched by the rise of Sergio Massa, one of the strongest potential candidates for the 2015 elections.
♦ News reports of the US-intercepting messages between the heads of Al-Qaeda and AQIM, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, have caused more immediate damage to counterterrorism efforts than Edward Snowden’s leaks.
♦ The New York Times profiles Rosario Crocetta, the gay, Catholic leftist taking on corruption in Sicily.
♦ In Damascus, a war-weariness has settled over the city: “there is a sense that the war will continue, perhaps for years, making the country’s rifts progressively harder to heal.”
♦ When Romanian prosecutors announced that Alexandru Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, it raised hopes that Romania may be able to shake off its national amnesia about its brutal past.
While Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernández face rising political uncertainty in Brazil and Argentina, across the Andes plucky Chile soldiers on in time-honored fashion – that’s to say, predictably.
Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet after winning primary elections in Santiago, on June 30, 2013
Michelle Bachelet, the former president, steamed towards another presidency on Sunday with a romping win in the primaries – which pretty much guarantees her a landslide win in November’s presidential election. But then again, is everything so certain, even in stolid Chile?
Brazil’s recent protests, and student riots in Chile last week over university tuition fees, have led some to wonder if “Chile is the next Brazil?” (Although, truth be told, it would be more accurate to call “Brazil the next Chile” as Chile’s student riots, despite the country’s booming economy, pre-date Brazil’s turbulence by several years; the first were in 2006.)
♦ In cities like Istanbul and Ankara, opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is strong. Elsewhere, however, the AKP retains a significant amount of support and people are very suspicious of the demonstrators and their motives.
♦ China’s government and Chinese activists were even more active than usual on the Tiananmen anniversary.
♦ Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy’s editor-in-chief, interviews Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
♦ When Xi Jinping meets Barack Obama on Friday, look out for Wang Huning, head of the Communist party’s central policy research office. The former university professor is one of the most influential figures in China today.
♦ Venice is drowning in conflicting interests.
♦ Cristina Fernández has a crazy plan to save Argentina’s economy.
♦Want to know what it’s like to be in Taksim Square now? Take a look at Paul Mason’s montage.