Every world cup comes with plenty of memory and so the 1986 world cup in Mexico was not an exception. Before the 1986 world cup finals,, several players have graced the biggest stage and pinnacle of world football to display their talents by scoring breathtaking goals, making captivating and scintillating moves, and showing amazing skills. But one world cup that will linger on in my memory having watched it back then as a primary six pupil was the 1986 world cup.
Indeed, the world cup was filled with plenty of drama and fun, but was clearly dominated by one man, the diminutive Argentine playmaker and wizard, Diego Armando Maradona. The wizardry dribbling skills of the Argentine was awesome! He orchestrated every attacking moves of the Albiceleste in all matches played at the world cup. His work rate and vision was exceptionally brilliant having played in his maiden world cup at Espana ’82, and was sent off in a group stage match against eternal rival, Brazil, he was at the peak of his game at the Mexico’ 86 finals. However, knees were brought down, the world stood still just to ‘worship’ this Argentine soccer demon. Maradona played with his heart and got bruising and excruciating tackles from defenders. He was punched, kicked and elbowed in every match, but yet, he came out unscathed and subsequently went on to rule the world with Argentina in a final match played at the famous 144,000 capacity Azteca stadium on June 29, 1986 beating west Germany 3-2.
That being said, his heroics in that year’s world cup remained elusive till date as no player has come so close to replicate such amazing form and dominance at a world cup final. This enigmatic feat undoubtedly placed him in the hall of fame amongst the likes of Pele, Socrates, Zico, Johan Cruff and so on.
Nevertheless, this said performance has also elicited argument and age long debate as to who is the greatest player between Pele and Maradona. Whilst, some divide of the debate tends to acknowledge Pele as the greatest, others believes the mercurial Argentine remains the game’s greatest. Though, the debate rages on, but the memories and respective exploits of both men at different world cups linger on.
From the foregoing analysis, Maradona was an exceptionally gifted player of his generation but I consider him one with a despicable character due to his off field antics. He was tested positive for performance enhancing drugs several times, and, infamously exited the stage in U.S.A 94 having been tested positive of using ephedrine after dispatching Greece 4-0. The on field heroic of the controversial Argentine inspires confidence but his life style off the field did not portray him as a role model to kids. Need not forget that he also had confrontations with journalists at a point time. He was never far from controversies both in the public and domestic front. More so, his public speech and comments are usually blighted with uproar, controversies and negative feed backs, and, this has often portray him in bad light amongst his pears, contemporaries, football administrators and stake holders of the game.
Interestingly, having joined the legion of fans to form a long queue of the debate of football greatest player, these are my take and submissions:
- Though Maradona dominated the 1986 world cup in Mexico to practically help his country Argentine to lift the world cup, I still rate Pele ahead of him in terms of performance.
- Pele’s contributions and impact to helping the selecao win three world cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970 remains an indelible achievement and record till date.
- Pele never spiced his system nor used any performance enhancing substance during his playing career. Though, this is still debatable as some would argue that the anti-doping scheme was not effective in Pele’s era but yet, there is no empirical proof or evidence that suggests that Pele actually tested positive to any performance enhancing drug.
- Maradona’s career was blighted with series of controversies whilst Pele’s was marginally marred with little controversies.
- Pele is a true role model to kids, and, Maradona life style does not inspire confidence.
Well, I could go on and on to enumerate negative and positive quality of these men, but what remains eternally enshrined in the minds of many, is the iconic status they ‘ve attained in their home country and globally. There is no doubting the fact that they are football icons and ambassadors, and of course remains the two greatest players of all time.
Finally, I sincerely crave the indulgent and understanding of readers of this column as to why Pele remains my greatest player of all time. The aforementioned reasons as advanced, may help to save me from any blushes. This does not take anything away from Maradona whose most educated left foot during his era gave credence to this protracted debate. In all, Maradona remains a legend.