Maradona gets bidets; U.S. gets poker
PHILADELPHIA -- When it comes to winning the World Cup, there is no limit to the length a team will go to help its chances of achieving soccer immortality.
As teams begin to arrive in South Africa this week, that reality is becoming more and more evident. England's players will wear oxygen masks in their hotel rooms to prepare for playing at elevation. Brazil manager Dunga has banned his players from having sex on game days.
And then there is Argentina manager Diego Maradona, who only added to his prima donna legend last week when the South African Sunday Times reported that builders were remodeling both bathrooms in the two-bedroom suite he will call home during the tournament so that they could accommodate a pair of state-of-the-art bidets.
The bidets, which cost roughly $450, each feature a warm-air blow-dryer and front and rear bidet wands. To accommodate the new fixtures, both bathrooms had to be remodeled at a cost of more than $2,000 each. And this comes after workers created the two-bedroom suite by knocking down a wall and combining two existing bedrooms.
Colin Stier, the manager at the High Performance Center where the Argentineans will stay, told the Times that bidets are very uncommon in South Africa, but "we were happy to do [this]. If this makes Diego more comfortable during his stay then it's worth the effort."
Maradona also requested that all the hotel rooms be painted white, and that six PlayStations be made available to the team. In terms of nutrition, they ordered 10 hot dishes every day with no less than 14 salads at every meal. Every dinner reportedly must include at least three pasta sauces and no fewer than three desserts. And the team would like ice cream to be made available throughout the day.
Argentina isn't alone in its unique requests. Dunga has demanded that the pool at Brazil's team hotel be kept at 32 degrees Celsius. Brazil is bringing two Portuguese chefs. And although they've ordered cookies and hot chocolate, the Times reported that chocolate is not allowed.
The Italians are reportedly bringing their own pasta and gym equipment. Managers of the New Zealand team have set up golf lessons to help their players unwind. And then there's Slovakia, which requested a tennis table and an electronic dartboard in its team hotel.
So what about the U.S.? When asked last week about any special requests for his team in South Africa, manager Bob Bradley joked that his players know better than to channel their inner rock star with some sort of please-remove-all-the-yellow-M&M's-like request.
"They bypass me and go straight to [general manager] Pam [Perkins] with things like that," Bradley said. "But we have a system of finding things out."
Perkins, who sometimes seems like a den mother to the team, travels with a gallon-sized plastic bag full of every type of chewing gum imaginable -- just in case. During the team's training camp last week, she purchased a collection of candies at the request of Landon Donovan, only to discover later he had asked for "candles" and not "candies."
In South Africa, the U.S. team will bring various snacks like trail mix and dried fruit as well as cases of Gatorade that will be available to the players in a specific snack room in the team hotel.
In addition, U.S. soccer officials said they are planning a game room in South Africa that will feature pingpong tables, a pool table and flat-screen TVs. There will also be an authentic, felt-covered poker table. There are also plans for several video game consoles with hundreds of games and a DVD collection with more than 500 titles.
The team had a similar setup during last summer's Confederations Cup. But that didn't keep forward Jozy Altidore from running up a cell phone bill in excess of $6,000.
"I learned my lesson," Altidore said. "That won't happen again."
Planning for the team's World Cup accommodations has been taking place for more than a year, with U.S. soccer officials scouting locations while they were in Africa last summer.
The added entertainment is due in part to security concerns in South Africa. Unlike Germany, where the players were occasionally allowed to roam outside the hotel with family and friends, players will be under strict orders to not roam the streets of cities in South Africa on their own. And seeing as how the team will be together a minimum of three weeks for the tournament, cabin fever is a legitimate concern. In addition, Internet access is spotty at best, removing yet another entertainment option.
"We're going to be there for a while," Bradley said. "You need a place to work, a place to cut out distractions. And within that setup, you need spots where players can go hang out. When you're in a World Cup, it's not like they can just go anywhere they want. The security part is real, it's intense.
"I think we've done a real good job. We've thought through all parts of it."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.