If the news were about someone else, maybe it would have seemed weird to me that someone started yelling, in the middle of the street, about the death of someone famous. But this time . . . No. Actually, everyone else stopped walking, too. Some looked at their cell phones, checking the news for themselves, as if they hoped the man was just crazy and nothing had actually happened. But something had happened.
That street, like many others in the country, immediately became a place of mourning, where everyone shared collective grief. I returned home shortly after - and could hear the neighbours crying. I was moved by it all, and I cried too.
Three or four years ago, Mara Dona was nothing more to me than a football player. The greatest, yes, but still simply a sportsperson. But when I moved to Argentina, I began to understand that he was, and is, much more. For someone who is not from Argentina or at least Latin America, it probably seems a bit stupid.
An entire country crying with such ferocity over the death of a wife beater, a father who abandoned more than one of his children. And I saw many people saying exactly that. And yes, it's true. Diego Maradona was all of those things. There's no way to deny or excuse it.
Maybe if it were another footballer, another famous person, many of the people who cried for him wouldn’t have done so, precisely because of those crimes. I also think that I would be among them. And it would be totally justified not to. It is fully justified.
But still, let me try to explain what he means and why. I don't ask that anyone admire him, just that you understand why others love him so much. Because it's for much more that his ability to play football. Maradona came from nothing and arrived at the exact moment when his country needed him more than ever.
A boy from Villa Fiorito (a shantytown),from this house that you're seeing now, who after a dictatorship and a war, the worst period in modern Argentine history, produced the best individual performance in history to bring his people happiness and restoration of self-belief so important, so profound, that I couldn't find a suitable adjective to describe it.
Maradona is a historical figure, a historical hero, who, unlike many others, became a legend, a myth, not only while he was still living, but when he was only twenty-five years old. He never asked for it, he never wanted it. And really, maybe everything would have been better and healthier for him personally if it never happened. But it happened.
It's a lot to put on the shoulders of one person, and the truth is he handled it very poorly. But from this moment on, his life was no longer just his, but everyone's. He made everyone believe, especially the poorest, that they are not inferior.
That someone like them could conquer the world, and that they could bring so much happiness to their people, too. And in the end, after traveling the world, when he could have gone to live anywhere, to any rich country, with a culture that the upper classes consider less 'barbaric’, he returned to his country to always stand beside not only his people, but also besides those of Latin America and the world's oppressed.
If Maradona weren't such an incredible footballer, many of the richest and most conceited people who mourn his death with the rest of us, the ones who tend to prefer rugby, would have thought of him the same way they think of anyone else with an origin like his. Which, with the classism so prevalent in Argentina is not a good way? And Diego knew it perfectly.
Despite the fact that it would have been very easy for him to be the darling of the highest social circles, he never respected the powerful, the rich, and just because of their social status. He was never afraid to tell them what he thought. I'll tell you all one thing.
I only finished my second year of high school, and I read better than Macri (president of Argentina). He always remembered where he came from. And those who come from similar places only love him even more for that. He was born a man of the people, and he died a man of the people. Something that caught my attention while I was checking his Instagram was this post. Which, for me, shows all of this very well? Maradona said:
Because in this crisis we are living through, people need help from those us who have the most. I lost my brother-in-law to Covid, and I know what it's like not being able to say goodbye to a loved one. I know what it is to not have food to eat.
While all the rich people and paid-off journalists on TV talk about this tax on the very richest people as if it were something terrible, the worst thing that could possibly happen in history, Maradona, despite being someone who would have to pay that tax, hoped with all his being that it would be approved.
Maybe he was not the smartest man, or the most moral one, but he always wanted the best for the people, even if it was not in his own interests. Diego Maradona was not a good person. He hurt his loved ones many times, something for which there is no excuse. It is important to understand, at least, that no one who loves Diego loves him for that.
Nobody wants to emulate or is inspired by that part of him. The truth is that the image, the idea, of Diego, is much more than the person. Somehow, as a kind of curiosity that could only have been produced with the combination of a very particular moment in history, and some exceptional actions, he became a member of everyone's family.
A father, a grandfather a brother, a son, an uncle and his loved ones, despite the times he hurt them, still mourn the passing of Diego Armando Maradona. Somehow they still love him. The same way that I, for example, as a victim of abuse, in some way, still love those who hurt me. Some of you listening to this also likely understand. Argentines who are crying for Diego consider him a part of their family.
They love him as if he were. It sounds crazy, but it's the truth. Diego Maradona was a totally unique figure, of unmatched importance. There are other celebrities, other athletes, other politicians, who also conquered the world, who also mean a lot to many people.
But they will never become like what he was and will continue to be for Argentina. It's not rational, nor evens something that Diego as a person deserved. It's not something that anyone deserves; it’s just something that happens. It's done, and it will never change.