Janine Mendes-Franco quotes one of the people reminiscing about the late Maradona: “[He] was just pure genius,” in her article for Global Voices. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]
Argentinian football virtuoso Diego Armando Maradona, famous for the stunning natural talent that led his team to FIFA World Cup glory in 1986 — and infamous for the “Hand of God” goal that helped clear the path for their eventual victory — died of a heart attack at his Buenos Aires home on November 25, having recently undergone surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He was 60 years old.
Small in stature but a giant on the field, it is hard to imagine Maradona, who was required to perform at such an elite fitness level, being plagued by health problems. Throughout his career, however, he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction which led to a range of other challenges, including obesity and serious health-related scares like hepatitis.
In 1991, Maradona was suspended from the sport he loved for 15 months, after testing positive for cocaine before a match. Later that year, he was arrested for possession of the drug and given a 14-month suspended sentence.
Come the 1994 World Cup, Argentina’s star player was once again part of the team, but before the group stage of the tournament was over, the Argentine Football Association pulled him from the lineup for failing a drug test. FIFA banned Maradona over the incident, essentially putting an end to his international career, which had included representing top clubs like Boca Juniors (Argentina), Barcelona (Spain), and Napoli (Italy).
It was for his performance on the field, however, that Maradona will forever be remembered.
His style of play, full of darts and dribbles, was fearless; from the sidelines, it also looked effortless. There was no one faster or more sure-footed. He demonstrated impeccable ball control, even with several defenders on him at a time. He had an instinct for finding spaces and creating opportunities but was not one to hoard the ball for a chance at glory.
He was, first and foremost, a team player who passed when needed, who captained creatively and helped make Argentina a joy to watch, comparable at their height to the captivating, samba style of fancy footwork their rival Brazil is famous for. The creative moves of La Albiceleste, as the Argentinian national football team is called, felt — under Maradona’s influence — at once both fluid and precise, a skilful tango on the turf.
Meanwhile, the loss of Maradona is being felt around the world, including across the football-obsessed Caribbean region. A superstar in his own right, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt posted photos of himself with Maradona on Facebook, accompanied by the caption, “RIP to Legend #Maradona 🙏🏿” [. . .]
[A graffiti drawing of Diego Maradona on a wall in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Wagner Fontoura on Flickr.]