CHENNAI: Every so often, an athlete shows the world the possibilities of talent. Every so often, an athlete shows the world that it is possible to inspire millions among millions. Every so often, an athlete shows the world it is possible to make athiests believe.
Diego Armando Maradona made the world believe that he was a superior being, sent down to inspire, spread joy and elevate the potential of The Beautiful Game. On Wednesday, the Argentine great passed away after a heart attack following a brain surgery earlier this month. The 60-year-old’s death shocked not only the football world but the wider community as well.
In a year that has brought about unprecedented chaos to the world, Maradona’s passing away will arguably be the single most piece of news that will reverberate with the most. That is the impact he had, from Buenos Aires to Brisbane and from Arctic to the Antartic. Walk around Asia or Europe or Africa or the Americas or Oceania and the chances of one coming across a mural of Maradona is very high. Even if he was a legend, a curly-haired freak of nature, people readily identified with him.
Hailing from Villa Fiorita, one of Argentina’s poorer localities, he conquered the world in 1986. That he suffered from drug problems while shouldering the unreal expectations of a football-mad nation only embellished what he managed to do on a football field, his natural habitat.
He will live on in memories of videos describing his immortal abilities with a football. As he dribbled past the English side to score one of the most iconic goals ever at the 1986 World Cup, the commentator couldn't help but exclaim: “What planet did you come from!” Indeed.
El Diego walks into history
Diego Maradona was football’s archetypal troubled genius, a world-beating player whose life and career scaled the most dazzling heights but also plumbed the darkest depths. Maradona, who died Wednesday at the age of 60, became a global icon after leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup but he was not a squeaky clean idol like Pele, and made little attempt to hide his fiery personality and many vices. “I am black or white, I’ll never be grey in my life,” he once said.
Maradona was short, powerful and quick. He was also a ferocious and astute competitor who refused to be intimidated even though many opponents tried. Above all, he was sublimely and imaginatively skilful. However, while Maradona is remembered for his masterly composure on the ball, he was also famous for his frequent lack of control both on the field and off.
He struggled with addiction, notably to cocaine, and with his weight.
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Lanus, just outside Buenos Aires, and grew up in one of the poorest areas of the Argentine capital. He made his debut for Argentinos Juniors just before his 16th birthday and his debut for Argentina at age 16 in February, 1977.
His career is defined by the World Cup, the four he played in and the one he missed. Manager Cesar Luis Menotti omitted “El Pibe de Oro” (the golden kid) from his squad in 1978. Argentina, the hosts, went on to win the competition for the first time. The following year, under Menotti, Maradona led Argentina to victory in the under-20 World Cup in Japan, winning the Golden Ball for the tournament’s best player. His senior World Cup debut in 1982 in Spain went badly.
Maradona was treated brutally by defenders and ended his tournament with a red card for retaliation as Argentina, already eliminated, lost to Brazil. He atoned four years later, propelling his country to victory in Mexico and making the tournament his own. In the final, Maradona set up the 86th-minute winner against West Germany. He scored twice in the semifinal against Belgium, beating four defenders for the second. But the match that defined his tournament, and possibly his international career, was the 2-1 quarterfinal win over England, in which he scored two goals that will be remembered forever — for very different reasons.
In the 51st minute, as Peter Shilton reached to catch the ball, Maradona, some seven inches shorter, jumped alongside him and with a deftness that fooled the eye, flicked the ball through the England goalkeeper’s arms and into the net. After the game, Maradona said he scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” All the while, Maradona’s off-field problems continued. He went into drug rehab on several occasions.
When he quit cocaine, he binged instead on drink, cigars and food and ended up in hospital in 2007. In 2000, FIFA ran an online Player of the Century poll. Maradona gained 54 percent of the vote, Pele was second. Maradona married his long-time girlfriend Claudia Villafane in 1984. They had two daughters, Dalma and Gianinna, and divorced in 2004.
A look at some aspects of his career
1979 One of his first big titles was the U-20 World Cup with Argentina in 1979
34 No of international goals he scored
2010 He managed the national team at the 2010 World Cup
1982 His first senior World Cup was in 1982, he subsequently played in three more editions
2000 He was voted as the Player of the Century in a poll run by FIFA
- Boca Juniors
- FC Barcelona
- Boca Juniors
- World Cup I Argentina: 1986
- Serie A I Both for Napoli: 1987, 1990
- Spanish Super Cup I Barcelona: 1984
- Spanish League Cup I Barcelona: 1983
- UEFA Cup I Napoli: 1989
- Italian Super Cup I Napoli: 1991
Four best goals
Selecting a compundium of Maradona’s greatest goals is a tough ask but this is four of his best in a cupboard filled with them...
The ‘Goal of the Century’
The solo goal against which all solo goals will be judged. Named the “Goal of the Century” by FIFA in 2002, his high-speed slalom in Mexico in 1986 ended England’s World Cup and cemented Maradona’s position as the world’s best footballer.
The ‘Divine free-kick’ that conquered Naples
Nicknamed the “divine free-kick” in Italy, Maradona’s iconic winning goal for Napoli in the November 1985 home clash with Michel Platini’s Juventus — reigning European champions — was the one that created the Argentine’s legend in Naples.
‘El Pibe’ volleys Verona
There were more crucial goals among Maradona’s 115 for Napoli, but few matched the sheer nonchalance of his outrageous lob in a 5-0 hammering of reigning Serie A champions Hellas Verona in October 1985.
In November 1981 Maradona lit up River Plate’s Monumental stadium with the sort of vision that took him to the very top of the game, somehow scoring from a tight angle on the left flank with nothing on and barely any gap in which to squeeze the ball.