The world has lost an artist, magician, the God of football, legend, genius, entertainer, and the most passionate player of the beautiful game who exhibited football skills to billions like never before whenever he was on the pitch with the ball. For him, the ball on his feet was like an extension of his body and his affection towards the ball was an inseparable part of his life.
The world has lost one of the biggest sporting stars. More than billion pages have already been written about him and the world will write a multi-billion pages describing his exploits on the pitch and the life he lived till the age of 60, for a writer or a journalist Maradona will always stay as an exciting character to present to the world even after the greatest saying goodbye to this world.
Argentinian breathed his last on 25th November 2020 at the age of 60. It was one of the saddest and shocking news of 2020 for a diehard football fans across the globe. The world is going through multiple crises due to Covid19 and football landscape is severely impacted due to pandemic. Diego’s departure in the middle of the pandemic only alleviated the pain of the football community.
Diego Maradona lived his life in his own terms, in every aspect of his life he did what he wanted to do. On pitch he did, what he loved to do; during training, he did, what he wanted to do; off the pitch he did, what his heart and mind guided him to do; his media bytes were his own mind and words; he coached the team with the greatest passion and with little intervention from a coaching manual; Maradona was one player, a superstar, a human being, a coach, whose remote was in his own heart and mind, he didn’t allow anyone to control him. Whether big clubs, big football personalities, big political leaders, big brands, influential football administrators, big media, big money, big power, etc. etc., no one could make him do, what he didn’t want to do in life.
Diego always spoke his mind and was never afraid of any powers. His heart always went with those who suffered the most and his support always went to those who was marginalised.
Maradona’s exploits in 1986 World Cup were an extraordinary sporting year for the world of sports, no other sportsman in a team sport has such a dominating impact on the pitch like Diego. Though Pele won three World Cups for Brazil, but he was surrounded by many brilliant players and it was the team which won those World Cups for Brazil and no doubt King of Football, Pele was an extraordinary performer, a genius in the team. Diego on the other hand, made to believe the world that there is no one like him on the pitch and he delivered on the pitch like a magician and made his opponents suffer and dance to his tune like never seen before. When he couldn’t score those crucial goals than he could deliver those killing passes to grab the winners. The goal against England in 1986 WC quarterfinal match is regarded as the best goal of last century and no doubt, best goal ever in the history of the World Football.
The star of World Cup 1986 was a fighter, and on the pitch, he would fight for everything. The famous “Hand of God” goal against England was one of the biggest controversial episodes of his life on a football pitch and for England Maradona was the biggest cheater on the pitch and enemy No. 1. However, the second goal, that magical goal after covering 60m comprising of speed, dribble, skill, balance, control, perfection, intelligence, etc. made England and rest of the world believe he is not less than a God.
Lifting the 1986 World Cup by defeating Germany in the finals was the biggest moment of Maradona’s life and it happened because he was dreaming of this moment and worked hard to make Argentina World Champion. He gave greatest happiness and joy to every Argentinian and to the world in 1986 and no other player had such an influence over a World Cup like Diego in 1986. Though Argentina won the first World Cup in 1978 while hosting the showpiece event, but the victory in 1986 World Cup was like a maiden World Cup trophy for a super crazy South American nation.
The rebellious nature of Maradona was very evident from his youth playing days and he missing the 1978 World Cup squad for Argentina made him angry and this was an early set-back to the player of Argentinos Juniors (Maradona was the youngest player to play in the Argentine Premier Division at the age of 15 years 355 days in 1976). At the age of 17 (1978) he was already making waves in Argentina and he was expecting to be part of Argentina national team, but coach thought he was too young to be exposed in front of the home crowd. The miss in 1978 World Cup did hit him temporarily, but come 1979, Maradona delivered FIFA Youth (U19) Championship title to Argentina with an impactful performance.
In 1986, Indian football was at one of the lowest points of history and national team performances were not encouraging, participation numbers were dwindling, cricket popularity was all time high due to the 1983 World Cup win, poor outing at the Asian Games 1982 in New Delhi and multiple other reasons. But Maradona magic brought interest back to the beautiful game in India and participation started growing, especially in Kerala, Bengal, North Eastern States and Punjab. No doubt, it was for the first time all the World Cup games in 1986 were broadcasted live in India and those households with television sets were fortunate to witness the magic of Argentinian great in India. Maradona was the talk of India and he inspired many to take up football seriously and dream big. Players like Bhaichung, IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, etc., were inspired by the magic of Maradona.
The former Napoli star could witness India’s love affair with football and adulation for the God of football whenever he visited India. He was in football crazy Kolkata twice and once in Kerala and during all these visits 1986 Golden Ball Winner was the talking point in India.
Pressure on Messi to repeat the Argentina’s success of 1986 is all because Argentina and the World have witnessed a magician and genius like Diego Maradona, if there was no Maradona story, then Messi won’t be under this kind pressure to deliver for Argentina, and Messi could have already achieved the World Cup in 2014 itself. No two generations can be compared but areas where Maradona was ahead of Messi was his fighting spirit and leadership on the pitch. Whether at Napoli or with Argentina National Team Maradona lead from the front to establish himself as the greatest ever with those titles and being World Champion in 1986.
Former Barcelona and Sevilla FC player, Maradona must be one of the most fouled players in the history of football and during his playing days tackling from the back was not a professional foul. Only in 1998 tackling from back was made a professional foul and by that time Maradona has gone through the worse and suffered serious injuries which even hampered his Barca career. He made Napoli his second home with two domestic titles and with incredible performances he was the darling of Napoli fans. Italian fans had a biggest dilemma in the 1990 World Cup when Argentina faced the host Italy in the semifinal match and in this match Maradona came out victorious but Italian support in the final couldn’t make Diego retain the World Cup trophy as the Germans were well prepared to manage the genius with numbers and tactics this time in the finals.
The former Boca Juniors star who joined the famous Argentinian club on 20 February 1981 was the first player in the football history to set the world record transfer fee twice, the move from Boca to Barca and then Barca to Napoli was a record transfer deal at that time. Maradona was appointed the coach of Argentina National Team in 2008 and made it to 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the outing ended with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Germans in the quarterfinals. Thus, Maradona’s career as the National Team coach ended on a disappointing note, he couldn’t produce the brilliance from the touchline though he had Messi at his disposal. His managerial career couldn’t flourish at any level, but wherever the Argentine great went he ignited passion in them.
Controversies Maradona generated was unparallel, whether drugs, doping suspension, mafia links, political statements, etc. Diego Armando Maradona the genius on the pitch suffered multiple health issues post retirement and ultimately the world has lost a FIFA Player of the 20th Century (joint winner with Pele) and a magician who made football further beautiful through his exploits on the pitch.
Let’s not talk about what he couldn’t do but what he could do for this world with his magic on the pitch.
He made billions happy and the joy he created for football fans across the globe would always stay with us and one thing is sure, Diego will continue to bless the football world with his on pitch performances wherever he is.
My salute to him for giving us a meaning to life through football and had not been Maradona in 1986 I am not sure whether I would be devoting my life to football.
We will continue to celebrate him, what he did on the pitch and this story of Maradona would never end for a diehard football fan like us.
Long Live Diego Maradona! We will greatly miss him.