On a tour to Buenos Aires you cannot avoid him. Diego Maradona. If you’re from Argentina you probably love him, and if you’re a soccer fanatic from anywhere else you probably can’t stand him. Those taking a tour in the capital of Argentina are likely to visit Boca and see the soccer stadium where there is a museum to the man. One of the best footballers ever to grace this planet he has never been one for the quiet life.Hero or villain we explore the man behind the myth.
Maradona was born into a poor neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, the first son after three daughters. Discovered by a talent scout at the age of ten, he played for the youth team of Argentino Juniors until the age of 12. Testament to his skill at such a young age, he would entertain spectators at senior league games as a ball-boy by showing off ball-juggling tricks at half time. This led rapidly into a string of successful contracts with clubs from Argentina and Europe, creating 258 goals from 494 appearances. Internationally his reputation is the strongest, embarrassing the best defenders in the world for 17 years whilst achieving 91 caps and 34 goals. Pretty impressive, but why does he have such a bad reputation?
The Hand Of God
One of Maradona’s most infamous goals was against England in the 1986 World Cup. During this time, Argentina was at war with England in the Falkland Island conflict, so much more was at stake than the match. Argentina went on to win the tournament, but as former Argentinian international Roberto Perfumo stated, “‘In 1986, winning that game against England was enough. Winning the World Cup was secondary for us. Beating England was our real aim”.
In a one-on-one contest with the English goalkeeper (who was about half a foot taller) Maradona won the ball from a challenge in the air by clearly using his hand to push the ball into the net. The referee didn’t see the foul and awarded Argentina the goal. At a press conference after the match, Maradona claimed that the goal was scored “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios” (a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God).
Drugs and alchohol
Not exactly a good example for young soccer players, Maradona became heavily addicted to cocaine in the 1980’s, a habit that lasted almost twenty years. He gained a huge amount of weight after his retirement from professional football and became obese, requiring surgery to bring his weight down. In 2004 he was admitted to hospital for a heart attack following a cocaine overdose and alcohol abuse caused another admission to hospital in 2007. In accordance with the media circus that had evolved around his personal life, there were three false claims about his death in the month following his admission to hospital. Many of Maradona’s professional peers acknowledge his problems, the following quote coming from international player Carlos Tevez;
“Although I believe in Maradona in football I sometimes question him when it comes to life, as he is wonderful in soccer and fabulous as a coach but lives a poor and dear life.”
A Towering Ego
Outspoken Press Conferences and ridiculous quotes characterize Maradona; some favourites…
“The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
“I did it with the hand of reason.” (After smashing the windscreen of a press photographer)
“I worked hard all my life for this. Those who say I don’t deserve anything, that it all came easy, can kiss my arse.”
“I am calm, … My surname is not a burden for me. It might be for others, but not for me.”
Seen By Over 100,000 People As The Son Of God
In 1998 in the city of Rosario, founders created the “Maradonian Church”, complete with ten soccer and Argentinian nationalist-based commandments. Maradona is referred to by followers as D10S, a fusion of the Spanish word “Dios” (God) and the number 10 that was on his shirt during his playing days. Christians worldwide are, naturally, offended.
Despite Everything, Still Better Than Everyone Else In The History Of Football
Despite the controversy surrounding the infamous “hand of God” goal, in the same match Maradona sealed Argentina’s victory with a 60 yard run beating no fewer than five England players in ten seconds. The effort was labelled “Goal of the Century” because it was deemed the greatest individual goal in the history of the game. That wasn’t just a flash in the pan either – in a FIFA internet vote, he finished in first place as “Player of the Century”, testament to his incredible sporting skill, despite everything else. Makes that big ego even harder to swallow…
As a visitor on your Argentina tour if you ask for a local´s opinions about Maradona you are more likely to get an animated reply about the man than a non-committal shrug of the shoulders; for all his faults, you can’t deny that he’s lived with typical Latin American passion, and continues to arouse the same in others.