Diego Maradona’s life spirally left him with the shimmering, joint shadow of his former self
The last moments of Asif Kapadia’s amazing film Diego Maradona are almost too painful to watch. For the soundtrack of an interview when he was at the height of his powers in Naples, when he talks about the football field being a refuge, a sanctuary, a place of freedom where he can express himself without fear, we see Maradona in the late fifties trying five games with his friends. It is an account of the decline of our glorious athlete in our collective memory and the juxtaposition of the hobbling, tummy, joint shadow. His fall was so rapid that it was almost the result of a Faustian pact that became the most influential football player in the world in exchange for a sporting afterlife of misery and self-loathing. The sadness is that any assessment of his genius cannot take into account the following events. It came a long time ago, but at the 1994 World Cup we received the first signal of its unfolding. The man who dragged his country to victory in 1986 and then almost repeated the trick in 1990 has now reckoned with a drug parody in his glory days. Her spectacular celebration, when she scored her country’s last goal in the match against Greece, was a symptom of her personal nightmare: the man was wired without repair. Banned, exchanged and shamed, his player career is over. But he was still respected in his homeland. And no wonder we consider what he delivered. He put the celebrity in a lucrative turn as a chat host before dealing with his appetite would be unable to jeopardize the ability to formulate the question. Still, he knew about football, so in 2005 he was offered the role of sports director at Boca Juniors, his old club in Buenos Aires ’roughest house. In a stadium that, 25 years after he last kicked the ball, remained a sanctuary of its brilliance, his presence inspired him; Boca won four trophies in two seasons by watching her enthusiastically from her private box. In a way that had to become a pattern, however, this was not sustained. He dropped out with the club president and disappeared.