Why they loved the Argentine football legend like no one else

Diego Maradona was perhaps the biggest player to kick a soccer ball. And that only goes so far as to explain the global outpouring of grief when he died that week.

Some say Brazilian Pele has won more trophies or that Argentine Lionel Messi and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo have achieved similar abilities.

But there are no people like Maradona – “el pibe de oro” or “the golden child” – who would rise from the impoverished barracks of Buenos Aires to a true international icon.

“It’s beyond the sport,” said Jon Smith, the UK’s leading agent who represented Maradona between 1986 and 1991.

“He went to very dark corners,” he added, “but history will be nice to Diego because his talent was so supreme and he never lost that desire to help the unfortunate.

Maradona was buried on Thursday after spending the day lying in state in the Argentine presidential palace, Casa Rosada. Crowd began to stand up at dawn to look at his corpse. Some of them became unruly when police tried to end the 12-hour visit period before waking up. Fans threw bottles and rocks, and assault officers responded with rubber bullets, gas and water cannons.

It was a feverish moment in the three-day mourning of a nation of 45 million. Tens of thousands of people have already filled the streets, leaving flowers and messages in Maradona’s childhood home and former team at Boca Juniors.

The Argentine-born Pope Francis joined the tributes. And the French newspaper L’Équipe stood out among the headlines of the world, with the headline: “God is dead.”

It’s impossible to think of another athlete whose death would provoke a similar global reaction that suits a footballer, a rock star, and a religious leader. Maradona was revered as a genius who enjoys by far the most popular sport in the world. He was a deeply human, flawed hero who contrasted with the athletes who often defined modern play.

Maradona’s legend is all the more powerful because she fulfilled a storybook prophecy in her homeland – just for the sake of making her fall.

The roots of the remnant myth date back to the 1880s, when the British – who took great power over Argentina – introduced the nascent South American nation to football.

British tactics relied on “strength” and “physical strength,” but a new Latin-influenced style soon emerged in the country that was “individualistic, undisciplined,” “agile, and skillful,” wrote Argentine anthropologist Eduardo P. Archetti. Article 2001

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The spirit of the Argentine game revolved around the idea of ​​”pibe” – a messy street game playing in the cramped, unpaved terrain between shantytown buildings, Archetti said. Maradona became the full epitome of this image, with a compact 5ft 5-inch vase and lightning-fastness coupled with rough edges that never faded, even when global superstar reached.

The zenith of this myth occurred at the 1986 World Championships, which he won almost alone with a series of virtuoso performances. The quarterfinals were against England, barely four years after the UK defeated Argentina in the Falklands War.

Diego Maradona holds the 1986 World Cup trophy after beating West Germany 3–2 in the final at Atzeca Stadium in Mexico.Carlo Fumagalli / AP

Maradona supported his country’s claim in the disputed Falkland Islands, or Malvinas. According to his left-wing politics, he befriended leaders like Venezuelan Hugo Chavez and Cuban Fidel Castro, whose faces were tattooed on his body by Maradona, the face of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara.

This Falkland background gave the Argentina-England game a wild tribal and political advantage. It was much more than football when Maradona scored twice, first with the infamous “God’s Hand” – he hit the ball into the net without the referee’s notice and then with perhaps one of the biggest individual goals to date, skipping the England team.

At that moment, with his only robbery on the English ladder, Maradona was once again the street urge that embraces the Argentine fantasy that a plucked, oppressed disadvantaged man is taking revenge against a former colonial power, Archetti said.

This catapulted him to a new level of stardom.

It was also “the game that helps ruin your life because it puts you at the level of God” – Tim Vickery, South American football correspondent and journalist, said the Brazil Shirt Name Podcast on Wednesday. “No one should be put on the level of God. We’re just not built on that, we’re human – and they’re certainly not built on that.”

Mourners in front of Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.Martin Villar / Reuters

Between 1984 and 1991, he produced the best football of his career in Naples. He also admitted that he had drowned.

“It’s a big city, but I can barely breathe,” he said then. “I want to walk freely. I’m a bachelor like everyone else.”

Smith, who wrote the book “The Deal: In the World of a Super Agent,” remembers that Maradona had to get special permission from the city police to turn on red lights because crazy fans regularly mobilized and dented his Ferrari collection.

His cocaine habit has developed and his reputation has been tarnished by reports of the urban Camorra criminal organization. He would fail three drug tests: the first shamefully ended his Neapolitan tale in 1991, the last in 1997 signaling the end of his career at the age of 37.

After his retirement, he received a suspended prison sentence for shooting air rifles at journalists. For years, he refused to admit that his son was a father, later alienated from his two daughters. And he was accused of domestic violence.

He had two stomach exclusions after his balloon weighed and he had at least one heart attack before he killed him at the age of 60. He was discharged two weeks earlier from the hospital and an alcohol clinic after an operation. bleeding in his brain.

He rarely avoided his mistakes throughout. Returning to the Boca Juniors stadium, La Bombonera, to say goodbye in 2001, he told the crowd that he hoped his mistakes would not have worsened his impact on football.

“La pelota no se mancha,” he told them, “The ball shows no dirt.”