The worldwide football community is mourning the passing of a legend. Diego Armando Maradona died at his home in Buenos Aires having suffered a heart attack just two weeks after being treated in hospital for a blood clot on his brain. He was only 60 years of age, and shortly before the incident, he had told his nephew that he wasn’t feeling very well.
The Argentinian, although a fantastically skilled footballer, was infamous here in the UK following the “hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup, when Argentina knocked England out of the quarter-final, 2-1.
The game took place in the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on 22 June, four years after the Falklands war. The first half ended 0 – 0, and it was in the second half where two of the most memorable goals of the World Cup were scored; one remembered infamously, while the other remains one of the best goals ever scored in a World Cup match.
This second goal was later to be called the goal of the century. It followed Maradona collecting the ball in his own half and running almost the length of the pitch, beating five England players in the process, before slotting the ball home past a despairing Peter Shilton.
As for the first goal, Shilton refused to forgive the Argentinian, and never spoke to him again up the day died. He did, however, acknowledge that Maradona was the best player he had ever played against and sent his condolences to the bereaved family.
When he was only 12 years old, the young Diego used to amuse spectators at the half-time interval at first division football matches by showing off his wizardry with the ball. He named Pele, Rivellino, and George Best among his idols, and while mimicking their skills on the football field, he also suffered the problems of George Best, not with alcohol abuse, but with drug abuse.
Throughout his playing career, which began as a professional footballer on 20 October 1976 just before his 16th birthday, and ended in 1997, he showed some moments of unforgettable magic and scored some magnificent goals.
As the world mourns the passing of this undoubted football genius, tributes have been pouring in from players and managers alike. Lionel Messi, a fellow Argentinian and one who is also regarded as one of Europe’s deadliest goalscorers and one of the best players of all time, thought of Maradona as the greatest ever, a thought echoed by Zinedine Zidane who remarked at that Maradona played at another level.
Players at Italian La Liga side Napoli and Argentinian Primero Division side Boca Juniors, two of Maradona’s former clubs, both honoured his memory with a minute of silence at their respective fixtures after the announcement.
Lionel Messi said that Diego is eternal, while Cristiano Ronaldo referred to the Argentinian as an unmatched magician. 80-year-old Brazillian star, Pele, poignantly said that he looked forward to playing football together in the sky.
Jose Mourinho reflected, “Don Diego, damn dude, I miss you.” The man that Mourinho replaced as Spurs’ manager, Mauricio Pochettino, who played alongside Maradona for a while in the Argentinian national team and was on occasion his roommate, said he felt privileged to have shared football and life with the legend.
Ther is no doubt that he will be sorely missed and that his memory will live on.