EL DIEGO MEETS REST OF GOD
Diego Maradona, widely considered to be the greatest footballer who ever lived, has made his final headlines aged 60. As a teenager, Maradona was already gaining a reputation, having scored over 100 goals for Argentinos Juniors before he was 21. He won the Argentine league with Boca and played for Barcelona, before moving to Napoli in 1984. In a 7 year stay in Naples, he transformed the club into contenders and gave them their most successful years in their history, with two league titles and the UEFA Cup. Napoli and their fans have treated his recent passing as though someone set off a nuke in the San Paolo stadium.
But it was international football which turned Diego Maradona into a myth. There was campaigns for him to be called up to the 1978 World Cup, when seventeen, and although those were ignored, he did play in 4 World Cups from 1982 to 1994. In the 1982 World Cup, he was repeatedly fouled and man marked by dogged defenders, and learnt a life lesson from the referees who entirely failed to give him any protection from the likes of Claudio Gentile. Near the end of Argentina’s tournament, after one attempted leg breaker too many, Maradona retaliated and was sent off.
He held on these injustices, real and percieved, until the 1986 World Cup, when he wrote his name into the sporting history books. Argentina in 1986 were a decent but unspectacular side. Diego Maradona dragged the team to World Cup glory, with goals against Italy, England and Belgium. The England quarter-final lives on for both goals. First their was the opening goal, when Diego Maradona knocked the ball into the net, aided by a hand. Yes, it was handball, but when 5 foot 5 Diego out jumps 6 foot 1 goalkeeper Peter Shilton for a high ball in the first place, you can see why the keeper keeps going on about the handball aspect of the goal. “Part Head of Maradona, part Hand of God” as Diego put it. Minutes later, Maradona took on the entire England team, who were powerless to stop him gliding across the pitch and scoring the “goal of the century” (TM, FIFA). It couldn’t even be written off as a fluke as Maradona scored similar goals elsewhere. It highlighted his will to win and perseverance.
In the final, Germany responded by setting two defenders to mark him, and even with two German defenders cutting down his options, Maradona still assisted the winning goal in the World Cup final, slipping the ball past the finest defensive midfeilder of their generation to a teammate in space.
In 1990, Argentina were even worse, and yet Maradona again dragged his country to the World Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to a late penalty, this time the Germans coming out on top. In the semifinals they took on hosts Italy in Napoli, and Maradona convinced the locals to cheer on Diego, their favourite son, over their own international team!
In 1994, he scored another Diego special, before FIFA banned him for drug taking. Maradona insisted he was set up by the football authorities. He wasn’t a stranger to drugs, viewing cocaine as a useful painkiller. An addiction led to serious health issues and a near death in 2005, but he recovered to become manager of the Argentina football team! Here he gave out caps like sweets to toddlers, stumbled over formations and results, qualified for the World Cup by the skin of his teeth, swore a lot, hugged everyone in sight, found time to exorcise mental demons in his players and was by far the most entertaining spectacle at the 2010 World Cup, with his gungho “no defence whatsoever” formation. This provided much fun, until Germany (again) ruined it by beating the Argentines 4-0 in the quarterfinals.
In recent years his health had suffered from the old personal demons, leading to his death aged only 60. He was the equivalent of a living deity through much of Latin America, where he publicly supported many of the left wing movements. Maradona was picked by 6 teams, and for the first time in his life, solid man marking like that actually won out. The patron saint of mad bastards will be sorely missed.
30 October 1960 – 25 November 2020
Pete Felton was a young musician who sadly took cancer and died in February. Given the way of the world in 2020, this didn’t make the news but now has through a retrospective piece. This means The Love Boat take a 25 point lead at the top of the DDP, which could well be insurmountable.