Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60, started his story as a player in the Villa Fiorito neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. And over the decades, he became a football great. He debuted with Argentinos Juniors and then jumped to Boca Juniors, where in 1981 he clinched his first title as a professional player. Then, he was off to Europe and his legend began. He won three titles with Barcelona, becoming a world figure. But, Maradona won a place as one of the all-time greats when he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, where he scored one of the most storied goals in football history — the “Hand of God” that helped defeat England in the quarter-finals.
Pundits have debated about who was the best football player in history — whether Maradona or Pelé, the iconic Brazilian who retired in 1977 and is still alive. There has been no consensus. Maradona and Pelé had a very good relationship until the Argentine failed a doping test and was expelled from the 1994 World Cup in the US. Pelé criticised him and they parted ways until 2005, when they re-established a relationship. Maradona retired in 1997, but remained linked to football. He was also the head coach of the Argentina national team.
Legend of Maradona will live on in Naples
If there is one place outside Argentina that will likely match — or possibly even exceed — the outpouring of mourning for Diego Maradona, it is Naples. Maradona was treated as a deity for the way he led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles — in 1987 and 1990 — and raised the spirits of the Italian city. Upon hearing the news of Maradona’s death, thousands of Neapolitans poured out into the city’s streets and lit candles in his memory. Naples Mayor Luigi De Magistris proposed that the city’s San Paolo Stadium be renamed after Maradona and ordered the stadium’s lights be turned on all night even though there was no game being played there.
When ‘City of Joy’ got treated to some magic
His promise to bring “bigtime” football to India remained unfulfilled as Diego Maradona died, leaving a cricket-mad nation devastated. Success starved in football for decades now, India, perhaps, needed needed his “Hand of God” to rise in a spectacularly popular sport. A lot in the ‘City of Joy’ will recall how Maradona huffed and puffed during a charity football game here three years ago. He played against a cricketing demigod in Sourav Ganguly. The Argentine legend, who was 57 when he came here, had managed to dribble, showed glimpses of his deft left foot and even crooned Spanish songs, as he sweat it out with school children and promised to “bring football” to India. It was not for nothing that India reacted with shock and sadness after his heart stopped beating on Wednesday.
- 1 Maradona clinched the 1986 World Cup with Argentina, single-handedly taking his team all the way
- 34 Number of times the Argentine legend found the back of the net for his national team. He is the country’s fifth-highest goal scorer
- 311 The all-time great’s tally of goals while representing different clubs during his 21-year professional career