One of the greatest footballers in the world, Diego Armando Maradona, recently passed on at 60 following a cardiac arrest. The football legend and manager was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award. The talented Argentine football player, known for his ability to control the ball, dominated the round leather game in the 1980s. He played for Argentina and clubs in Italy, and Spain. His skilfulness in football can only be compared to that of the legendry Brazilian former professional footballer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele).
Maradona manifested football talent early and at eight years he joined Las Cebollitas, a boys’ team that went on to win 136 consecutive games and a national championship. He signed up with Argentinos juniors at 14, made his first division debut in 1976. Maradona made his debut with the national team, and became the youngest Argentine ever to do so. Although he was excluded from the 1978 World cup-winning squad on account of his young age, he led the national Under-20 team to a junior World Cup championship the following year. He moved to Boca Juniors in 1981 and helped them to win the championship. Later, he moved to Europe where he played with FC Barcelona in 1982 and won the Spanish cup in 1983. Maradona also played with the then SSC Napoli (1984-91) and raised the team to the heights of Italian football. With the team, he won the league title and cup in 1987 and the league title again in 1990. His career with Napoli ended abruptly following his arrest in Argentina over drugs. That earned him a 15-month suspension from playing football. He later played for Sevilla in Spain and Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. In 1995, he returned to Boca Juniors and played his last football match on October 25, 1997.
His career with the Argentine national team included World Cup appearances in 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1994. He will be remembered for his soccer wizardry in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. With his traditional No. 10 jersey of a playmaker, Maradona scored two of the most spectacular goals in World Cup history. The goals came within four minutes. The first was scored with his hand, which the Tunisian referee thought was with his head. That goal is referred to as the ‘hand of God’ goal. The second came when Maradona took possession of the ball at midfield and dribbled through some English defenders and past the goalkeeper before slotting in the ball into the net. He did not finish the 1994 world Cup, because he tested positive for drugs and was again suspended. He also played in South American championship-winning teams in 1987 and 1989. Maradona played a total of 490 official club games during his 21-year professional career, scoring 259 goals. He played 91 games and scored 34 goals for Argentina. An Internet poll conducted by the Federation International de football Association (FIFA) named Maradona the top player of the 20th Century. In 2008, he became the head coach of the Argentine national team. Shortly after leading Argentina to the quarter finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was sacked. In 2011, he became the head coach of United Arab Emirates Club, Al Wasl. However, the team struggled and he was sacked the next year. He also managed to work for other clubs before becoming coach of Mexico’s Dorado de Sinaloa in 2018.
Maradona was born in Lanus, Argentina, and raised in the Buenos Aires shanty town of Villa Fiorito, where he took up soccer with passion. In his death, the world has lost a great football player and an icon. His fans and lovers of the beautiful game will sorely miss him. Although he was involved in drugs, women and alcohol, he remained a football enigma. That can explain the mammoth crowd at his funeral.
We commiserate with the people and government of Argentina, his fans and the football world on the irreparable loss.