Argentina international passed away aged 60 on Wednesday
Football and Pakistan is a complicated relationship. The country where the sports good manufacturing industry was one of the biggest in the region at one time, never really became a force to be reckoned with in the most popular team sports on the planet.
However, the interest of youngsters increased in football over the years as more and more people started following the game.
News about the death of the legendary Argentina footballer Diego Maradona became a major talking point on the social media in Pakistan where it stayed the top trend on Twitter for hours and tributes poured in for the legendary striker from different quarters of the society.
To understand how Maradona became one of the most loved sporting icons in Pakistan, Samaa Digital contacted four individuals from different quarters of the society who discussed in detail about the stature of former Napoli star in a country where cricket is by far the most popular sport.
Ahmer Naqvi (Sports journalist, broadcaster, Real Madrid fan)
Maradona was one of those rare individuals who are far more than what they’ve achieved as an athlete. His impact was greater in the world, in general, partly because of such amazing acts on the field but I believe largely because he exemplified the cultural and social impact of sports. He became pivotal for a country like Argentina especially in the aftermath of the Falklands War and for Napoli—his club side—because of the history of Southern Italy which were dominated by the Northern Italy. I think the only person you can compare his impact with is Mohammad Ali which I believe is the highest form of praise for any elite athlete.
Ahmed Yusuf (Football coach, Karachi United, Arsenal fan)
In the world of football, having a hero is a beautiful thing largely because there is no territorial limit. A footballing hero is someone who simultaneously shows you different sides; courage, passion, skills and Maradona had all. Even in a country like Pakistan where there is no professional football structure, there is a huge fan following of Maradona and it is because he was just a real-life hero. His influence is not limited to the generation who watched him play but it is far greater. For example, there is a Karachi United coach who has been coaching for 20 years. Maradona is his hero and he believes that he was the best and is still the best, despite seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. That is an interesting aspect because it is coming from a person who has lived in Karachi where there is a huge fan following of Brazil traditionally. In short, I think his greatness can be described in how, despite him not playing in the current era, his aura is still here. People are still in awe of his talent, skills and achievements.
Rahima Sohail (Former Sub Editor, The Express Tribune, Arsenal fan)
As someone who started watching football just before the peak of Ronaldo and Messi, I think Maradona’s aura is so big in a country like Pakistan because he played during the young days of our elders. Whenever I watched football, my father talked about how amazing he was. I think it is because of this reason why when we were growing up, we heard kids talking about how they wanted to become the next Maradona despite never watching him live in action.
Mahnoor Shafique (Teacher, Liverpool fan)
The reason I know of Maradona is because of his stellar career being one of the most gifted players in the field of football. I remember reading about his move to Barcelona was the record-transfer back in 1982 and it was because he was just pure magic. His passion to be the best in what he set out to achieve made me admire him even more.