God was completely large with Diego Armando Maradona and pardoned him for 60 years. Half work. Maradona praised God much more. Fact is, he gave him credit for the famous goal against England, in the quarter-finals of the ’86 World Cup. Because Maradona, the most significant street kid we knew – something that ranged from Spartacus to Che Guevara – never forgot where he got the super talent he was blessed with. God’s gift.
In the eternal debate over who is bigger, Pele or Maradona – my peers don’t even dare put Messi in the equation, certainly not before Cruyff – Maradona won football, Pele won everything else. Because Maradona was a brat, but a player a waste of time.
Maradona should have taken the World Cup as early as 1978, but Argentina national team coach Luis Cesar Manotti was afraid to take a 17-and-a-half-year-old boy, and it could be said that the boy did well. Maradona did not need the junta and deals with the Peru team to win the World Cup. He did it alone eight years later, in the way that has always characterized him: he took the ball and did it as he pleased.
Diego Maradona (Photo: Reuters)
If Pele saw himself as the ambassador of world football, Maradona was the ambassador of football fans, those who loved speed, agility, ball control, control of all the shades of the kick and lots and lots of sophistication. Maradona did all this for them and for them, and upgraded everyone who played with him. He made Argentina the best team in the world, or at least the most interesting, and he made Napoli, a gray team coming from an ugly city in southern Italy, the best team in boot country. But unlike Pele, he did not beautify, he even despised those who beautified. He played dirty, branched, and fat, and shot at reporters, and rubbed shoulders with Fidel Castro, always living on the edge. Because for him he probably would not have had a life without football, or rather: football has been his whole life.
Maradona was a viewing experience on days when there were not too many channels, certainly not ones that aired 24/7. Maradona brought us the color for TV, and managed to keep us awake during the hard hours even before Michael Jordan did. Maradona was the first football star we actually saw, and perhaps the last to not be statistically analyzed from any situation. They did not check how much he ran, and how much he lost and how much he lost. Look at what he does with the ball – usually with a slanted jaw.
In arguing over who is bigger, Maradona has lost a lot of his stock because of everything around him, but just because of what is around it should be remembered that the greatest footballers do not grow up in the academies of big or engineered clubs with the help of physiologists. The greatest footballers are the ones who grow up in pavilions, in the dark suburbs, in the slams, the ones who had nothing to eat and who will always say in the retirement interview that “if I were not a footballer I probably would be sitting in jail.”
The death of the greatest of them all was almost expected, almost timed. His life was a little sad, but the football he left us was happy. Sometimes it seems that the hand of God he spoke of did not belong to the Lord of the world, but to the one who used it.
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