Diego Armando Maradona - a once in a century player, he was a maverick, a genius, a maestro with the ball guiding a football with his left foot, drugs. Taking mediocre teams to glory not seen before or since (Argentina & Napoli). Worshipped as a deity by not just his countrymen but fans all over the world (there is even a Church of Maradona). And yet also embroiled in all sorts of controversies – drugs issues, tax problems, violent behavior, health issues, the company of not so good men!
And yet all through this time he remained someone who continued being loved and adored by fans across the world. Probably because he was more open about his flaws than many famous ones.
The bare stats first – he has trophies at the biggest stages - World Cup, Youth World Cup, World Cup Golden Ball, La Liga, Copa del Rey, Serie A (twice), UEFA Cup, Argentine Primera Division and many others. However, even this list glittering doesn’t some close to describe what a phenomenon he was. After all, not many players transcended the game the way he did and managed to enhance the beauty of the beautiful game!
That game against England (World Cup 86) put on display the contradictions of this maverick. On one side there was the stealth of the “Hand of God” punching in the ball over the keeper and just four minutes later, single-footedly leaving the entire England defense stupefied. The ball dancing along with his foot is one of the most mesmerizing pieces of wizardry seen on a football field. Did he have a wand with him? Not for nothing is it the Goal of the Century! Have read so much of this event in the past few days that I don’t even have to see the footage anymore of this goal!
Just how big an influence was he on a tiny me? For all my pretense to be a big sports fan, the only sports shirt I own is a replica “La Albiceleste” shirt! Italia 90 was the event which introduced the biggest single sport tournament to me. And he was the God there, even though his powers had started waning. Somehow dragged Argentina into the final where they lost to West Germany and haven’t won since. But that hasn’t stopped me supporting Argentina ever! Now this is the impact on someone who did not see him play at his peak. No wonder why the whole world paused to grieve his passing away.
Finally, no Maradona tribute can be complete without a video displaying his almost non-human skills. So here is my favorite bit – not of him in action but just warming up! And hope that Asif Kapadia documentary comes soon!
Farewell Diego Armando Maradona! You have gone to a better place.
P.S. The best article I read on Maradona - From The Guardian