Why the Argentina football legend loved it like no other

Diego Maradona was perhaps the greatest player to kick a soccer ball. And yet it only goes so far as to explain the global outbreak of grief when she died this week.

Some argue that Brazilian Pelé won more trophies, or that Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo have achieved comparable skill levels.

But there are none like Maradona – “El Pibe de Oro” or “Golden Kid” – who rose from the deteriorating barrios of Buenos Aires to become a true international icon.

“He moved the game,” said John Smith, who was a prominent British sports agent who represented Maradona between 1986 and 1991.

“He went into some very deep corners,” he said, “but history will be kind to Diego because his talent was so supreme and he never lost the desire to help the unfortunate.”

Maradona was buried on Thursday in the Argentine presidential palace Casa Rosa for a day spent in the kingdom. Crowds crowded at dawn to see his body, some of them uncontrolled when police tried to extend the 12-hour journey. Fans threw bottles and rocks, and riot officers responded with rubber bullets, gas and water cannons.

It was a vivid moment during the three days of mourning for a nation of 45 million. Thousands of people have already filled the streets, leaving flowers and messages on Maradona’s childhood home and former team Boca Juniors.

Argentina-born Pope Francis attended the tribute. And France’s L’equipe newspaper stood among the world’s first pages, its headline proclaiming: “God is dead.”

It is impossible to think of another player whose death would provoke a similar global reaction, one a football player, a rock star and a religious leader rolled into one. Maradona was revered as a genius known as the world’s most popular sport. He was also deeply human, a flawed hero who stands in contrast to athletes who often define modern sports.

The legend of Maradona is all the more powerful as he fulfills something of a storybook prophecy in his country – only to great success to enable his downfall.

The Maradona myth has its roots in the 1880s, when the British — who heavily invaded Argentina — introduced the South American nation to football.

British strategy relied on “force” and “physical power”, but a new Latin-influenced style soon emerged in the country that was “individualistic, undisciplined,” “agile and efficient,” Argentine anthropologist Luardo P. Archeti wrote. 2001 paper.

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Archetti said that the spirit of the Argentine game revolved around the idea of ​​”Pibe” – a decaying street game that plays on broken and rough ground between the city’s buildings. Maradona became the total embodiment of this image, his stock 5 feet 5 inch frame and electric prowess attached to rough edges that were never smoothed as he achieved global superstardom.

This mythology came at the 1986 World Cup, in which he won almost a solo performance with a virtuous performance. The quarter-final was against England, with the United Kingdom defeating Argentina in the Falklands War.

Diego Maradona won the 1986 World Cup trophy by defeating West Germany 3–2 in the final at the Atzeca Stadium in Mexico City.Carlo Phumgalli / AP

Maradona claimed his country for the disputed Falkland Islands, or Islas Malvinas. His leftist politics saw him befriending leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba, on whose face Maradona had his body tattooed with the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara.

The Falkland backdrop gave the Argentina-England game a wild tribal and political edge. It was a lot more than football when Maradona scored twice, first with his infamous “Hand of God” – netting the ball, unnoticed by the referee – and then perhaps the greatest ever. With one of the personal goals, the last half should be skipped. England team.

At that moment, with his lone raid into the English ranks, Maradona had once again hit the road, blasting a fantasy of Argentina’s fantasy, reducing revenge against a former colonial power to Dalit oppression did.

That catapulted him to a new level of stardom.

It’s “the game that helps destroy his life because it puts him on the level of a god,” Tim Vickery, an expert and journalist who covers South American football, Brazilian shirt name told podcast on Wednesday. “No one should be placed at God’s level. We are not made just for this, we are human – and he certainly is not made for this.”

Condolence outside Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.Martin Willer / Reuters

While in Naples between 1984 and 1991, he produced the best football of his career. He also felt suffocated.

“It’s a great city but I can hardly breathe,” he said at the time. “I want to be free to roam. I am a child like any other.”

Smith, who wrote a book called “The Deal: Inside the World of a Super-Agent”, remembers that the city’s police had to get special permission to drive red lights from Maradona, as crazy fans regularly mobilized And saluted his collection of Ferraris.

He developed a cocaine habit and his reputation was tarnished by alleged links to the city’s Camorra Crime Syndicate. He would go on to thwart three drug tests: the first in 1991 that ended his Naples story in disgrace, the last in 1997 that signaled the end of his career at the age of 37.

After retirement, he was given a suspended prison sentence for shooting at reporters with an air rifle. For years he refused to accept that he was the father of his son, later becoming dependent for his two daughters. And he was charged with domestic violence.

He suffered two gastric bypasses after losing weight, and died at the age of 60 before suffering at least one heart attack. Two weeks ago he was released from the hospital, and straight into an alcohol-recovery clinic, he has bleeding on his brain after surgery for surgery.

During all this, he rarely shies away from his mistakes. Returning to La Bocconera, Boca Juniors Stadium, to bid farewell to 2001, he told the crowd that he hoped his errors had not made an impact on football.

“La pelota no se mancha,” he told them: The ball does not show dirt.

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