Author: Nonyelum Ozoemena
November 25 will live down our memory as football legend Diego Maradona unexpectedly died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 60.
Football, like in Nigeria, is a national symbol of unity in Argentina and Maradona was the “Golden Boy” of his era.
Therefore, it is no surprise that an estimated one million fans trooped out on the streets, laying out the shirts of Argentina, Boca and Argentinos Juniors – Maradona’s first club – across the pavements, lit candles and brought flowers to say goodbye to their ‘national treasure.’
Born and raised in Villa Fiorito to a poor family, Maradona first showed interest in football when he was gifted a soccer ball at the age of three.
By the time he was eight, Maradona was already playing as an adult and quickly attracted the attention of a talent scout while he was playing in his neighbourhood club Estrella Roja. He went ahead to play for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell’s Old Boys before he retired as a player at the age of 37.
Maradona shone in football despite the many challenges that characterised his era. His vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling skills were combined with his small stature (1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in), which gave him a low centre of gravity allowing him to maneuver better than most other football players; he would often dribble past multiple opposing players on a run (Wikipedia).
Maradona’s genius on the field earned him the name “D10s” — ‘D’ for ‘Diego’, ’10s’ his shirt number used to replace ‘i’ and ‘o’ which in total means “God” from Spanish translation.
While his extraordinary legacy was endless in Argentina, in other parts of the world, Maradona’s most iconic moment was his “hand of God” goal and a second goal he scored after dribbling past five England players from 66 yards in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals.
Despite his achievements of being a World Cup winner, FIFA Best Player and Goal Of The Century as well as other honours in his successful club career, Maradona was not anyone’s idea of a perfect footballer.
“Hand of God” was a famously troubled character who abused drugs and alcohol. Some will say the abuse took a toll on his career. While he had a spectacular playing career especially for his country, his managerial career was grossly affected.
Argentine journalist Marcela Mora y Araujo said this about the football legend:
“He was quite unique in the ability to be quite so vulnerable, so weak, so damaged, if you like, and also so successful, so gifted, so brilliant. So in a way, we are all a little bit like him and he represents all men and all humans.
“We all identify to some level with some of his contradictions, some of his vulnerabilities, some of his issues and he was just an extreme exponent, like a pendulum. He did everything better, bigger, more, and he fell lower, more dangerously and darker.”
And his deteriorating health in recent years – aftermaths of years of drugs and alcohol abuse – didn’t help matters.
However, the Maradona we knew was a fighter. He fought poverty and won. He fought drugs and alcohol abuse and won. He also fought psychological and brain injury and also won. But sadly he couldn’t fight his own heart and succumbed to the clutches of death.
But we take solace in the fact that he loved and revolutionised football and in spite of his many controversies, his legacy as one of the greatest footballers of all-time will continue to live on.