By Timothy Ojo
Enigmatic, controversial, fighter, achiever, legendary, eccentric; these adjectives may not fully describe the peach of the man in Diego Maradona. However, one thing is sure: the Argentine soccer legend will have his name on the lips of the whole world for a long time. He was that iconic!
Diego Armando Maradona, the flawed genius (as many would call him) already has his legend forever etched in the hearts of not just football fans but also sports fans as well as ordinary people across the world. His legendary status was never in doubt. Dreaded by defenders, loved by his coaches, adored by fans. He was a demi-god who many, especially in the city of Naples, worshipped.
A colossal name in the world of football, a name that could pass as an eponym for soccer, as the Americans would call it.
Maybe more could have been done by this once-in-a-generation genius; just maybe. That is arguable. However, Maradona lived his life to the fullest. He did what he wanted to do. Could his choice of fun and frivolities have cut his life short? Arguably. But nobody embodies free-spirit more than the sturdy football maestro.
In 1986, Maradona’s “hand of God” secured the World Cup for Argentina in a global spectacle in which Maradona shone like a thousand stars. On Wednesday, November 25, 2020, the “hand of God” fell into eternal sleep.
As tributes continue to pour for the soccer icon across the globe, here are facts you probably never knew about the legend:
- Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960 in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He typified the rags-to-riches story, as he was born in one of the ghettos of Buenos Aires.
- With an uncommon determination, Maradona morphed from being a street urchin to a soccer god worshipped across the world.
- Maradona’s brilliance with the ball makes him an easy target of opposing defenders. He was fouled a whopping 53 times during the 1986 World Cup finals hosted by his country, Argentina, the highest assault ever against a single player.
- Can we ever forget the infamous “hand of God” saga? In the quarter-finals of the World Cup match between Argentina and England, Maradona scored with his hand. When quizzed about the incident, he said, with a smirk on his face: “The goal was scored by the hand of God and a bit of my head.” This would later become a popular epithet among football fans worldwide.
- Maradona’s number 10 jersey number was almost retired by the Argentine Football Association.
- One of the highlights of Maradona’s life was his eccentricity. Pele, another football great and Maradona were always at loggerheads with each other and this fueled their rivalry as to who is the greatest footballer of all time.
- In 2005, Maradona’s first guest on his Television Programme was Pele. Surprised? Some described that episode of the programme as a show of two football icons who enjoyed each other’s company.
- Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, two revered footballers, once told the press that the toughest footballer they ever faced was Diego Maradona.
- Some, in his native Argentina, actually believe Maradona was a god. They worship and adore him like a deity. There is a church named after the legend. Named the “Church of Maradona”, it was founded in 1998 in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.
- Maradona was a self-confessed drug addict, who hopped in and out of rehab without much success.
- Maradona was politically vocal, never hesitating to flaunt the tattoos of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro on his body parts. He was also close friends with Cuban leader, Ruben Castro.
- In 2009, Italian officials declared that Maradona owed them €37m half of which was interest that accrued from the principal sum.
- On November 25, 2020, Diego Armando Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, passed on, barely a month after clocking 60. And the whole world mourns. His legacy lives on. The flawed genius lives on in the hearts of many.