Former Argentina forward passed away aged 60 on Wednesday
“Beyond everything else, no ball ever had a better experience than when it was at his left foot,” was the words of former Real Madrid and Argentina forward Jorge Valdano describing a man called Diego Maradona.
Anyone who had the privilege of watching ‘El Pibe de Oro’ play during his prime would not disagree with those words, one bit.
The man from the capital of Lanús Partido became a household name, not just in Argentina or South America but across the world in the 1980s when he single-handedly won more than what thousands of players achieved throughout their entire careers.
Many believe his name was bigger than the game itself during his prime.
On November 25, 2020, football lost its original ‘little magician’, leaving millions in absolute disbelief. Maradona’s career on the pitch was a journey of highs interspersed with some lows, including a disastrous 1994 FIFA World Cup campaign for the national team where he tested positive for doping and was subsequently banned from the game.
If that had happened to any other athlete, their top-flight career conclusion would have been disastrous but not for Diego. He was loved and cheered till the very end.
But why was Maradona so adored, despite having troubles off the field? The answer potentially lies in his passion and love for the game, which was evident for everyone to see.
Anyone who has followed Maradona can talk endlessly about how his passion for the game, in spite of achieving so much and losing so much, was second to none.
Despite his deteriorating health, the former Barcelona striker was seen cheering for his boyhood club Boca Juniors in the stands, just like a 15-year-old: the same passion, the same excitement and the same emotions.
Maradona’s brilliance on the field is unquestionable. But how he understood the game by keeping it simple throughout his life was something that made people fall in love with him even more.
He played not only to win but to conquer the hearts of the people watching him live in the stands and millions all over the world.
It was his ability to turn up when the chips were down that gave hope to millions watching the game and told them that nothing is out of reach.
When things looked impossible, he put his hand up—at times quite literally—and took his team to highs it probably couldn’t have otherwise achieved.
From winning a remarkable World Cup for Argentina in 1986—a tournament many believe was the most competitive edition in the history of football—to winning two Serie A titles for Napoli—their only till date—Maradona achieve something Julian Cesar would have been proud of, turning a team of absolute mediocre players into deserving champions.
Many still argue that his performances in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons for Gli Azzurri were the best ever, which in turn gave him the title of ‘the Son of Naples’.
Always in our hearts 💙— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) November 25, 2020
Ciao, Diego pic.twitter.com/I2gTWqdtdB
And he was the same off the field as he was on. Honest, brutal, a winner, something that left many in awe but made others question him.
But Diego was Diego. He couldn’t care a bit about what people said. He did what he believed in and he did it with conviction.
In all, Maradona was a blockbuster package. He was a star too bright to fade, a footballer too good to fail and a genius adored by everyone.
It is time to say goodbye and goodbyes are always hard but Diego’s farewell will be harder. It will be the end of a book, not just a chapter.
Aidios Diego. Thank you for making us fall in love with the beautiful game. The football world will always be in your debt.