As Diego Armando Maradona settles down in heaven after a tall life of six decades. Let us quickly run through his mammoth achievements. His journey for once reminds you of the famous quote by Vladimir Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
During one of those decades, that is the 1980s, his lofty skills, on the football field, transformed him, into the grace of divinity. The outpouring of grief after his demise was not limited to his native Argentina only, as he was a global icon. The zenith of his career was the 1986 World Cup, when his playing adroitness, inspired the team to play beyond its capability and conquer the fort. It remains one of the most consequential displays ever, in the history of soccer, by an individual, across the entire spectrum of team games. So, Maradona by far is the most impactful footballer ever.
His iconic status was not just on account of his heroics on the field alone. Maradona, had partnered Pele as joint winners of FIFA’s award for the player of the 20th century. It was the vicissitudes of Maradona’s life, both on and off the field that made him so relatable. For Argentina was in the grip of a military junta then, and in a seemingly, irreversible, economic decline. It had also received a drubbing in the Falklands War, and in these troubled times Maradona’s magic in the 1980s provided succour and hope to the country. He was drawn to Latin America’s, deadly and polarising, political leaders, and the feeling was only mutual. He cultivated relations with some of Latin America’s most prominent and controversial left-wing leaders, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Fidel Castro was like a ‘second father’ to him and he had tattooed his face on his leg.
Maradona’s uniqueness was unique in the manner, in which, people from all walks of life could use him to express themselves. England in the 1986 World Cup was at the receiving end of Maradona’s most discussed goals, the famous ‘Hand of God’ which was followed by a magical waltz past half the English team. “The hand of God” was a phrase used by the Argentine footballer Diego Maradona himself to describe a goal that he scored during the Argentina v England quarter finals match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
Nineteen years later, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, used Maradona’s goals in that match to explain how modern central banks functioned. He had a name for it: The Maradona theory of interest rates. Can Ronaldo and Messi match that?
Maradona was a temperamental genius and perhaps the most charismatic footballer ever. Pele had the Brazilian team of the century in the 1960s. Vava, Didi, and Garrincha were all legends in their own right. But look at Maradona. Take him out and none of the others in the team were real legends of the game. He carried the team on his shoulders. To win a FIFA World Cup on his own makes him what he is.
Maradona had to win the 1986 World Cup. In the 1982 World Cup, Argentina was nowhere. Beating England, Belgium and Germany was no mean feat but a super Herculean task.
Be in peace. Settle in heaven. Those who saw Maradona dribbling the ball in flesh and blood are indeed lucky. There won’t ever be another Maradona.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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