The curtain falls in the city of Buenos Aires. Tears flood the streets and a city mourns in heavenly rest.
And you know why it does.
Diego Armando Maradona.
Modern day wannabes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo simply don’t even come close. Diego is head, hand and shoulders above the rest. There is no doubt about that.
You could be forgiven that William Shakespeare wrote the words “his taints and honours waged equal with him” about Diego, but then again, apply it to George Best, Paul Gascoigne and perhaps a home truth comes out. We all have taints and honours. For Diego Armando Maradona, these would both be magnified in huge proportions in the same football match…that’s how special Diego Maradona was…
Let’s go to Estadio Azteca in 1986. I watched it at home with my Mum and Dad. It was a World Cup quarter final match. It was England v. Argentina. Gary Lineker had scored 5 goals in his last two matches and was on fire. Diego Maradona had scored 2 so far (1 wrongly disallowed) and set up a further 5 goals. This match, would be unforgettable. First of all, we must remember that the Falklands War had happened just a few years earlier at a time when about 4 or 5 Argentinians were plying their trade in the English leagues. In this match, the English had one brutal and dirty tactic – to eliminate Maradona. To foul him off the park. To ensure he didn’t stay on the field. Sadly, they almost succeeded. But there is a God…and he was to come to Maradona’s rescue…later…
Video 1 – Maradona being fouled by England. No English players were sent off…
Next time anyone calls Diego Armando Maradona a cheat, show them that. He didn’t cheat first, he cheated second. He’s human like you. Maradona’s double glory would come in the second half. Maradona made a run into the box, Steve Hodge oddly overhead kicked the ball back towards Peter Shilton, this iconic moment happened next…
Maradona punches the ball into the net and makes it 1-0 to Argentina. He is not booked or sent off. The goal is not disallowed. It counts.
Video 2 – The Hand of God…this goal was allowed to stand…
Maradona collects the ball in his own half, he swivels past a few England players and keeps going, as commentator Brian Moore says…
Video 3 – You have to say that’s magnificent.
And here are some other great commentaries of that goal. It’s incredible.
Make no mistake about this – Argentina winning the 1986 was Diego Maradona’s triumph. Nobody else did it. It’s his legacy. You better work out why he broughts so much joy to his country, and to Napoli. He took Napoli from obscurity to two Serie A titles and a European trophy. In fact, during Maradona’s time at Napoli, they were unbeaten at home in the European Cup, and only lost 1 European home match. Indeed their only European defeats in that 7 year period were to Werden Bremen and Real Madrid, aside from two penalty shoot out knockouts! Diego, was simply the best World CUp player I ever saw…in terms of all time greats, only my Northern Irish hero George Best was a better footballer than Diego. That’s it, enjoy these compilations…
On my own journey around the world as a wacaday travel writing tourist, here are my personal top 3 Maradona moments…
1.November 2010 – La Bombonera, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
In November 2010, I visited La Bombonera (the chocolate box), which is the home of Boca Juniors, the club where Diego Maradona became a legend and hero. At the stadium, as well as countless Maradona merchandise, you can get your photo next to the Maradona statue and see his hand and foot prints. Many streets nearby are adorned with Diego Maradona murals, the most famous of which is of course, the Hand of God mural..
2.July 2014 – Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, MEXICO
In July 2014, after watching Lionel Messi lose the World Cup final in Brazil, I ended up in Mexico City. My highlight here was visiting the famous Estadio Azteca. It was here that both Pele and Maradona won the World Cup. Pele did it in 1970. Maradona did it in 1986. This is also the stadium where the afforementioned England v. Argentina quarter final took place. I did a stadium tour, did the “Hand of God” at the Maradona end and had my photo taken next to the Maradona Hand of God statue.
3.April 2015 – Finishing writing my book whilst reading Diego’s, SPAIN
You might not know this, but Diego Maradona fittingly inspired the very first ever chapter of any printed book I released. Ironically, I also published that in the year he died. Chapter 1 of “Backpacking Centurion – Volume 1 – Don’t Look Back In Bangor” was written on a bus from La Linea De La Concepcion to Malaga in Spain in April 2015. At the time, I had Diego Maradona’s autobiography on me to read. I read his entire book whilst in Spain, including while I was in Barcelona and when I cancelled my trip to Sevilla (another of Diego’s former clubs). As I read Diego’s book, I was able to finish my 147th chapter of that book. In the end, I moved that chapter to be Chapter 1, something you will notice when you buy the book, here –
Those are my top 3 Diego moments. I almost made it to Brest in 2019, Diego Maradona’s last club before his death. Napoli is another city on my to do list now. Not for ice cream, or pizza, or Italian culture, but for Diego. I want to watch a match in the Diego Maradona stadium, buy some souvneirs and chat to the locals in bars of Napoli on how this genius inspired an entire city.
“[Maradona] has Burruchaga to his left and Valdano to his left.
He doesn’t use them.
He won’t need any of them.
You have to say that’s magnificent” – Barry Davies.
“These days, the stars ain’t out of reach” – Jon Bon Jovi.
Rest in peace, my first foreign hero, Diego Armando Maradona.