5 ways soccer star Maradona captured the world's imagination
Football fans around the globe have been mourning the passing of Diego Maradona, a player and manager that dazzled and delighted crowds with his unforgettable soccer skills in various World Cups and European leagues.
Argentinean soccer midfielder and striker Diego Maradona sadly died of a heart attack on Wednesday 25th of November 2020. He underwent a successful operation for a blood clot at the beginning of the month, but the reported nine ambulances sent to his Buenos Aires residence didn't arrive in time to save him from the attack.
He was revered throughout the world of football as an outstanding player, so much so his 1986 World Cup quarter-final winning goal was named 'Goal of the Century' by supporters on FIFA.com, he was the joint winner of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century with Brazilian legend Pelé and set the world record transfer fee twice. But equally, he was outstanding character that received attention for his actions, good or bad, throughout his eventful career.
He began playing professionally just before turning 16 and died at age 60. In that time, he gained a following not just for his unbelievable football talent but his headline-grabbing behaviour.
Here are five moments that captured the imagination of fans in his home country of Argentina and the rest of the world.
Maradona: 'The Golden Child'
Maradona attracted attention from the Argentinean press as early as 11 years old, having beginning his football career as a youth player in 'Los Cebollitos' (The Little Onions) at Argentinos Juniors at the age of 8 and performing tricks on the pitch at half time, so it's no surprise many soccer fans labelled him a child genius. People even called him 'El Pibe de Oro' which means 'The Golden Child' in English. You can watch a young Diego Maradona practice his tricks here.
Gaining respect around the world, even from sporting enemies
As Maradona grew into a young adult he continued to impress but behind the scenes the pressures of keeping his football clubs financially afloat meant he was becoming reliant on injections to enhance his performance. Despite this, after beginning the eighties at another Buenos Aires club, Boca Juniors, he moved to F.C Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain with a large fanfare of a $6.7 million transfer which was a world record at the time. After scoring a fantastic goal in 'El Clasico' (see the video below) he surprisingly received a standing ovation from some opposing fans of Real Madrid. It's very rare due to the animosity between Madrid and Barcelona as rivals in La Liga, the national Spanish football league.
Maradona: World Cup winner
After playing at F.C Barcelona for two years, he transferred to Italian team Napoli for an even higher transfer fee of nearly $9.2 million and became a club legend there. But what captured the attention of the rest of the world was his World Cup 1986 performance. He played a key part in each of the matches and became notorious for his quarter final performance against England, scoring with the 'Hand of God' and netting a winning goal (which you can see in the video below) that was dubbed 'pure art' by one sports journalist. A born leader, sometimes putting in performances for the whole of his team, he went on to score again in the semi final and made a pass for the winning goal in the final, securing his legendary status that has made him a global star even to this day.
Managing Argentina’s national team
Maradona immediately put his name forward for head coach of the Argentinean national team in 2008. It was clear that he was looking to follow on from his legendary status as a player into management. He took over from previous head coach Alfio Basile after being up against challengers such as Diego Simeone and Sergio Batista. Controversy followed and two years later, the Argentina faced the possibility of missing qualification for the World Cup. Based on the high expectations to qualify, Maradona and the rest of the team faced pressure from the press and while they eventually got through, he told the media to "to suck it and keep on sucking it.", which resulted in a two-month ban on all football activity by FIFA. Despite the drama, once Argentina reached the World Cup and had a great run until reaching the quarter finals where they were demolished by Germany 4-0. A month later, Maradona was told by the Argentinean Football Association that his contract wasn't being renewed.
Maradona gets into the groove
Reaching the pinnacle of global football stardom came with its’ downfalls such as drug addiction, numerous operations and contracting hepatitis along being sent home in the 1994 World Cup for doping. At times, his personal life became the subject of more interest than his football talents and once, maybe because media attention became so stressful, he fired an air rifle at journalists he claimed were invading his privacy. One positive thing he became famous other than football for was his dancing. He was clearly a lively and fun character that kept people entertained with his personality and passion for life. Even when he's having a coffee break, or more specifically what looks like to be 'merienda', a light meal that people in many Spanish-speaking countries enjoy in the mid-afternoon, there was always a time to dance for Diego Maradona.
An unforgettable soccer talent that outshone many
As the world remembers Diego Maradona for all of the things he did both on and off the field, it's hard to believe he was only 60 when he passed. It’s a timely reminder of how talent can shine brightly, but only for short amount of time. ‘El Pibe de Oro’ had unforgettable football skills that will remain in the memory for many soccer fans the world over for a long time to come.