November 25, 2020, will now go down in history as a black day in sports as the world lost one of the greatest football legends of all time – Diego Maradona. The iconic Argentine footballer is hailed for leading his country’s grand World Cup victory in 1986, among other achievements. He succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest on Wednesday. Earlier this month, he had undergone a critical surgery for subdural hematoma (blood clot in the brain). Diego Maradona dies just a month after celebrating his 60th birthday on October 30 this year.
Diego Maradona’s early love for football
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Buenos Aires, Argentina in a family with humble means. He was the fifth child among seven.
Football had always been a prominent vocation in Argentina, and the children there grew up dribbling through the streets and lanes. Young Diego was no exception. He was gifted his first soccer ball at the tender age of 3 years, and the rest is history.
His dedication, skills and innate talent in the game was soon spotted by talent scouts from different local football clubs. He started playing in his neighbourhood club Estrella Roja in the children’s team. At 8 years of age, he was a prized player at Argentinos Juniors. By the age of twelve, Maradona was already appointed as a ball boy in first division games where he often amazed the audience with his football skills during halftime intervals.
In October 1976, he started playing professionally at the age of sixteen with Argentinos Juniors, when he left everyone spellbound with a nutmeg shot on his debut match. His first goal came at a match against San Lorenzo on November 14, 1976. During his five-years professional stint with Argentinos Juniors, he scored a whopping 115 goals in 167 matches.
Playing for the big leagues
After his transfer to Boca Juniors in 1981 with a record amount of $4 million, Maradona dazzled football fans worldwide with his sheer brilliance and magical skills. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to solely credit him for bringing Boca Juniors into the international limelight.
A year later, the world-famous Spanish club signed Maradona with a world-record amount of $7.6 million. Within a year, he propelled the team to Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup victories. During a 1983 El Clásico match against Barcelona’s arch-nemesis Real Madrid, Maradona’s name went down in history as the first-ever player to be lauded by the feisty opponent supporters, for an iconic goal.
Maradona moved on to Napoli from Barcelona after two injury-hit seasons embroiled in controversies. Here he soon reached the pinnacle of his club career. He led Napoli to their first-ever win at Serie A Italian Championship in 1986–87. Overnight, he was lionised as a divine entity – with his murals and posters all over the Italian town and newborn children being christened in his honour.
Bringing the World Cup to his country
Diego Maradona made his international career debut in 1977. His performance in the 1982 World Cup was lukewarm and riddled with repeated fouls till Argentina’s unfortunate exit in the second group round. But the wheels of fate turned in the 1986 World Cup.
Throughout the tournament, Maradona proved his mettle as the true maestro of football, scoring and assisting in as many as 10 goals for his country. Ultimately, Argentina cinched their prized victory against West Germany in the finals. The tournament won Maradona fans from all over the world, who still diligently worship him as the uncontested God of football. After Diego Maradona dies, they have come together to immortalise his undying legacy.
Interestingly, Maradona became the first player ever to win the Golden Ball at both FIFA Under-20 World Cup and FIFA World Cup. His record was touched much later only by another Argentine legend of present times – Lionel Messi.
Maradona’s Fantastic Football
Always donning the Number 10 jersey, Maradona would rule the field either as an attacking midfielder or striker. He was predominantly left-footed. His classic style of ball control, dribbling, creative passing strategies and agility have given rise to distinct skills which are now taught to young players across the world.
His short stature, along with his splendid speed, made it difficult for opponents to defend as he advanced with the ball between his feet. His prowess in strategising and guiding the team made him one of the successful captains in history.
He officially retired from football in 1997, leaving fans heartbroken worldwide. Later, he coached several clubs in his country and abroad, ultimately donning the cap of Team Argentina’s head coach in 2008. His stint as the national coach went fairly well as Argentina started out with impressive group stage wins at the 2010 World Cup. However, they suffered a 4-0 loss against Germany at the quarter-finals. Shortly after, Maradona denounced his position as the national coach.
Controversies favourite child – Hand of God
The greatest controversy of Diego Maradona’s career is undoubtedly the ‘Hand of God’ goal. While playing against England at the quarter-finals of 1986 World Cup, Maradona scored a tricky goal that apparently looked like a head hit but was doubted to being aided by his hand. Despite the controversy, the goal was not cancelled, in turn helping Argentina to secure their World Cup victory. In August 2005, Maradona finally admitted on television to having coyly hit the ball with his hand and scoring an illicit goal. The iconic hand-goal remains known in history as ‘Hand of God’ and will continue to be remembered even after Diego Maradona died.
Throughout his illustrious career, Maradona has time and again been suspended for the usage of prohibited drugs and unruly, temperamental behaviour with fellow players. In fact, it was his excessive drug abuse that caused to severe health issues post his retirement.
Off the football pitch, he has been named in a number of financial and civil controversies. But nothing could ever mar his legacy as a ‘God of football’ around the globe. In 2017, he topped the list of “100 Greatest Footballers Ever” by FourFourTwo magazine.
Reactions on his Death
Fans of all ages across the world have been left devastated by his sudden demise yesterday. Many have vented their angst against the fateful year 2020 for robbing them of their favourite idol.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to express his tribute towards Maradona.
Diego Maradona was a maestro of football, who enjoyed global popularity. Throughout his career, he gave us some of the best sporting moments on the football field. His untimely demise has saddened us all. May his soul rest in peace.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 26, 2020
Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan also penned a heartfelt Tweet for the legend.
Diego Maradona….you made football even more beautiful. You will be sorely missed and may you entertain and enthral heaven as you did this world. RIP…. pic.twitter.com/PlR2Laxfj2
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) November 25, 2020
Diego Maradona dies at a time when the world is already battling a terrible pandemic. We offer our most sincere tribute to the legend on his unfortunate demise. Maradona’s legacy will continue to live on for centuries to come.