To understand the gargantuan shadow Maradona casts over his football-mad homeland, one has to conjure up the athleticism of Michael Jordan, the power of Babe Ruth – and the human fallibility of Mike Tyson. Lump them together in a single barrel-chested man with shaggy black hair and you have El Diego, idol to the millions who call him D10S, a mashup of his playing number and the Spanish word for God.
– American newspaper ‘The Houston Chronicle’
The reign of emperor Pelé almost approached its end and the throne to the footballing world needed an heir to take up the mantle of the new star and continue the legendary saga of jersey no.10. That was the time when Diego Maradona, another South American footballer donned the popular white and blue striped jersey with the no. 10 on his back.
Diego Armando Maradona Franco is an Argentine retired professional footballer, who continuously jostled with Pele for the title of ‘GREATEST OF ALL’, a tussle that modern fans can relate to in Messi-Ronaldo GOAT debate. The first son in the family of six children after three daughters, Maradona was born on 30th of October, 1960, in Lanús, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina . His two younger brother followed his footsteps to become pros too. The dominance of this man on the football field and his stardom are evident from the fact that he and Pelé were announced joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century award on 11th December, 2000. The first player in football history to set the World Record transfer fee twice,El Diez played as an attacking midfielder or second striker for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys . He scored 34 goals in his 91 appearances for Albiceleste,that included 4 WCs. He captained the Argentina side and led them to triumph over West Germany in the final of 1986 FIFA WC, Mexico . He was honored with prestigious awards since his retirement in 1997 and became coach of Argentina in 2008, a position he held until the end of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Maradona was first spotted by a talent scout while he was playing in his neighborhood club aged 8 and made his professional debut for Argentinos juniors in 1976. Due to his comparatively smaller physique and thus, a low centre of gravity, he was able to dribble past numerous opposing players, a talent for which he was nicknamed “El Pibe de Oro” (“The Golden Boy”), a name that stuck with him throughout his career. A prodigious child, he made his international debut at the young age of 16. He played his first World Cup tournament in 1982 but he was not able to perform to the expectations, a fact that brought his aggressiveness during the matches to fore.
However, he led his team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, a tournament etched into the pages of history for the quarter final match against England. A quarter final match being more popular and documented than the final seems odd , but the reason here is Maradona himself. His two goals which led to a 2-1 win against England entered football history for starkly different reasons. The first goal dubbed as “Hand of God” became controversial with replays showing it was scored by striking the ball with the hand. The other one, just 4 minutes later has been voted to be the best one in the World Cup history by FIFA.He received the ball in his own half and in course of 66yd dribbled past 5 English players,before slotting the ball in the net. This one earned him the moniker “Barrilete Cósmico” or Cosmic Kite for Maradona’s dribbling was so unpredictable that for opponents it must have been like chasing a kite in the wind.
The majesty of his second goal and the notoriety of his first sums up pretty much the entire career with him being “half-angel, half-devil”.The international career, which had lasted 17 years and yielded 34 goals from 91 games, as well as one winner’s medal and one runners-up medal in the World Cup ended with him being sent home after failed dope test at 1994 WC.His retirement marked the onset of his managerial career .Marred by controversies, just like of the old , Maradona the Manager could never match “El Pibe de Oro” .
On Maradona topping FourFourTwo magazine’s 100 greatest player list, Andrew Murray quoted – “Pelé scored more goals. Lionel Messi has won more trophies. Both have lived more stable lives than the overweight former cocaine addict who tops this list, whose relationship with football became increasingly strained the longer his career continued. If you’ve seen Diego Maradona with a football at his feet, you’ll understand.” So you can understand why Hollywood wants him on the big screen,even if it is in the form of a documentary film. ‘Maradona’ is to be released this year by Academy and BAFTA Awards winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia as the finale of trilogy on child prodigy and fame.
The list of Maradona’s achievements and accolades cannot be imbibed in an extract of few hundred words but that’s supposed to be the essence of a legend. His unparalleled and unique playing style will continue to haunt his former rivals, who are sure to remember that ‘little, cunning man’ dribbling past their sight.
He once quoted- “My mother thinks I am the best. And I was raised to always believe what my mother tells me.” This self confidence distinguishes him from other players and makes him an inspiration to the upcoming generation of potential candidates to the throne of football, left vacant by him. Post Maradona’s reign, the crown named jersey no.10 found it’s heir but that’s the story of another legend that will be narrated in the next part, till then stay tuned.