There are not enough qualifiers to describe a footballer that was arguably the best to grace the game. He is Diego Armando Maradona Franco. Adored by millions of soccer fans around the world, Maradona passed away on November 25, 2020, of a heart attack at his Tigre, Buenos Aires home in Argentina. As a lasting honor to a legend, Argentina has declared three days of national mourning.
He turned football into a religion for many and inspired such devotion unlike any seen before. In clubs like Boca Juniors and Napoli, he was a cult figure. However, he was as controversial as he was talented, courting controversies after controversies throughout his career. It was his struggles with cocaine addiction that will bring his glorious career to an ignominious end. He was sent home at a World Cup for failing a drug test.
Maradona lived a life of excesses too. In his later years, he had marital troubles with his wife, Claudia Villafane. He was also estranged from his two daughters Giannina and Dalma. He was not on talking terms with his son Diego. His former girlfriend accused him of domestic violence. Asides from domestic troubles, he was linked to gun-running and organized crimes.
Even as the eulogies poured out from renowned sports personalities from all over the world, there was the desperation to forget about this other side of Maradona. However, even the legend himself never shied away from acknowledging his weaknesses.
While we all acknowledged what a great player he was, there is no illusion that he could have been more. His troubles prevented him from reaching the heights of his career. Maradona is often compared with fellow great, Brazil’s Pele. However, there would have been no need for comparison had Maradona been disciplined enough to utilized his greatness.
The fans recognized his flaws, yet they loved him unconditionally. He was the street kid who rose from poverty to lead a nation to footballing successes on the world stage. He represented an ideal, and fans caught into such an ideal.
On the field of play, commentators lost track of adjectives to describe his style and the numerous tricks he did with the ball at his feet and sometimes hands. He described his infamous goal against England as the “Hand of God.” He also gave us one of the best goals in World Cup history. He had iconic moments at Napoli, where he led the Serie-A side to two titles.
Some say, Maradona, out of the dust of poverty, was hurled into global recognition, worldwide adulation, and he couldn’t handle it. He bent under pressure. In his departing speech to his boyhood club, Boca Juniors, Maradona pleaded that against the backdrop of his many mistakes, that his footballing legacies should never be tampered with. Perhaps the world intends to honor that request.
While mourning Maradona, soccer icon, Pele said he had lost a legend. Maybe just like Pele, we can only celebrate this legend today and cast the memories of his failings to the deepest part of our memory, hoping they stay buried there.