Diego Armando Maradona, one of the greatest players to play the beautiful game has died aged 60.
Football is a game of stories, written on the pitch, and told in the pub or at home. Passed on through families and friends, they are what attach us mere mortals to legends of the game. In this game of stories, not many wrote them in a more beautiful or joyous fashion than Diego Maradona.
Ask any football fan from around the world what they remember of Diego Maradona and they’ll likely talk about THAT goal in 1986 against England. Arguably the greatest goal ever scored at a World Cup, it summed up everything about Maradona.
A swivel of the hips to lose the first two markers. Then using his blinding pace to beat the third and the fourth. Finally, getting round Peter Shilton and slotting the ball past him with that sublime left foot.
On BT Sport, Gary Lineker, who was on the pitch that day for England, says it’s the closest he ever came to applauding a goal scored by an opponent. Meanwhile, in Argentina, he is remembered as their greatest ever footballer, even ahead of Lionel Messi. And if you ask the people of Naples about him, and they’ll tell stories of a god, not a man.
Maradona’s transfer to Napoli completely changed the club. From never having won a title in their history, the great Argentine led them to two in three years. His impact on the club was such that the Stadio San Paolo (Napoli’s home ground) is set to be renamed after him.
From his solo warm-ups to his goals, he captured the hearts of a club and a city.
Of course, he would admit he was flawed. From his well-publicised drug habits to the ‘Hand of God’, there will always be bad stories to go with the good. However, for the majority of fans, he won’t be remembered as a cheat. He’ll be remembered as being a man who helped football become the beautiful game.
Many of us may never have seen him live, but that doesn’t mean his stories can’t affect us. In Naples, schools have closed for a man those children will never have seen play. In Argentina, three days of national mourning have been announced, remembering a man many will have only seen on Youtube.
However, like the rest of us, his stories have touched them all.
If indeed football is a religion, then Diego Armando Maradona’s stories may well have made him the closest thing to god.
Rest in peace, Idolo.