It is one of those pieces of news that blows through Barcelona in no time at all: Diego Maradona is dead. When the children practice football, the shock is mixed with the memories of an entire generation of parents. A southern Italian says that he should have worked that evening, but his local business partner had just asked him sensitively: Should we rather postpone it? He’s a southern Italian, but not even a Napoli fan.
The Argentine football wise Jorge Valdano, Maradona’s teammate in the 1986 World Cup victory and Spanish TV expert, has to break off the switch from the Champions League when asked about Maradona because the tears leave him speechless. The family of the then World Cup coach Carlos Bilardo switched off the television to hide the fatal news from the seriously ill senior. In Argentina, a three-day state mourning is proclaimed and in Maradona’s second home, Naples, the mayor announces the renaming of the local stadium. And worldwide there were discussion groups like those of the football parents in Barcelona on Wednesday evening.
The audience came to watch him warm up
From 1982 to 1984 he played in Barcelona: to Argentina, before Naples. It was the only year when the audience came to the Camp Nou half an hour before kick-off – just to watch them warm up. Two years, 38 goals, a Spanish cup win, a “hepatitis” – more about the quotation marks later – and another long break because of what is perhaps the most famous foul in football history.
Two intense years, two Maradona years. “Except for getting pregnant,” says his teammate at the time, Lobo Carrasco, “everything happened to him here.”
In 1982 Maradona, 21 years old, got off the plane in a light blue two-piece suit and with a brown leather bag in hand and in his first interview was amazed at the unimaginably high transfer fee of an estimated six million dollars. In the third attempt, Barça kicked him out of Argentina. The first time in 1978 you didn’t have enough money, the second time the Argentine military dictatorship forbade the transfer. Now, in the summer of the soccer World Cup in Spain, the time has come.
Kicked almost unconscious from behind
Maradona comes with his wife and family, soon more and more friends follow. They speak of the “clan” in Barcelona. Club officials report that up to 40 people can be found in Maradona’s house above town when his wife is not there. Allegedly they also get light girls from the wicked center. After a great start to the season for Maradona, Barça was in first place when he fell ill. The official version is hepatitis. To this day, insiders speak of the fact that it was actually a sexually transmitted disease.
“If Diego had always been fit and stayed longer, we would have won the European Cup three or four times in a row – he was so much better than the rest,” says his team-mate Julio Alberto in the Spanish TV documentary “FC Maradona”. Without him, however, the German coach Udo Lattek loses the job and Barça the championship. In the second season it is similar under Maradona’s compatriot César Luis Menotti. Even if Maradona is innocent this time.
In September 1983 Athletic Bilbao’s Andoni Goikoetxea, who two years earlier had already pushed another Barça star to the operating table with Bernd Schuster, kicks him from behind, almost unconscious. “Somebody has to die first before something changes,” complains coach Menotti.
Just as everything is global at Maradona, so will this foul. Because of the general indignation, the “butcher of Bilbao” will be banned for 18 games, and even if he only has to serve six, a process begins that evening which will end in better striker protection in world football.
After Maradona’s failure for months, it is only enough for the cup final in his second season. After beating Real Madrid in 1983, the worst possible opponent awaits in 1984: Bilbao. Even before that, both sides provoked, kicked again on the pitch, and after Barça’s 1-0 defeat, the revanchism derailed in a field battle in which Maradona attacked the opponents with kung-fu kicks. It will be his last game for Barça.
Because of the expected ban, the increasingly uncomfortable press and the broken relationship with President Núñez, both sides consider a change to be the most sensible thing to do. Naples pays around eight million dollars and Maradona walks upright.
What remains are inexplicable dribbles, crosses with overhead kicks and two mythical goals. One at Real Madrid, when he only needs to push the ball into the empty goal, but first lets his opponent Juan José slip into the void (and later in the game apologizes for banging his man into the post). As well as a unique lob in the European Cup at Red Star Belgrade: from the run from the edge of the penalty area in the high arc of a three-point throw in basketball, cheered by 100,000 Yugoslav fans in “little Maracanã”.
Maradona’s former teammate Monchi Rodríguez
Towards the end of his career, Maradona played one more season in Spain, for Sevilla FC. The then substitute goalkeeper and today’s sports director Monchi Rodríguez quoted a sentence on Wednesday as a farewell that at least a generation can sign without hesitation: “I don’t care what you’ve done with your life. I care what you did with mine. ”
Icon: The mirror
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