Diego Maradona: The legend and his inseparable demons

Diego Maradona lifted to the skies by teammates and fans in celebration of the Mexico 86 triumph (Photo credit: FIFA)   As a kid with a ...

Diego Maradona lifted to the skies by teammates and fans in celebration of the Mexico 86 triumph (Photo credit: FIFA)


 

As a kid with a burning passion for football in 1994, off the vibes I got from my father and highlights on TV, the build up to the second group game of the best ever World Cup in my personal opinion and the vociferous hype around a certain Diego Armando Maradona didn’t help my perception of the player.

 

Maradona remains great regardless of what I think, but my beef for the greatest showman I know dates back to that game at the Foxboro stadium.

 

Every news outlet way back in 1994 didn’t stop forcing the pocket sized dynamite down my throat ahead of Argentina’s game against Nigeria, he was the man to watch out for, Kickoff, a popular football magazine had dedicated pages to him in their latest edition just before the mundial, I wasn’t sold.

 


Fear is one thing, respect is another, on the 25th of June 1994, I missed Samson Sia Sia’s goal as power outage meant I had to walk a distance to see the game, it was late in the night but I chose punishment over missing the game, two quick free kicks by the genius of Bueno Aires and it all went south…

 

If VAR were available way back and the men behind the screen weren’t English referees, not sure Argentina would have beaten Nigeria on the day, not sure I’d feel this way about Maradona but the events that followed and his dismissal from the tournament after testing positive to ephedrine, a performance-enhancing stimulant ended his international career and it’s southward ever since.

 

While he was the coach of the Argentine national team, at the 2010 edition of the World Cup, Walter Samuel’s goal that handed Argentina a 1-0 win over Nigeria would have been chalked off as it should never have stood with replays showing an infringement on a Nigerian player in the build up to the goal.

 

2018 wasn’t different, Maradona was neither a player nor a coach, but he was in the stands as the VAR refused to award a late penalty to Nigeria as Odion Ighalo pressured Marcos Rojo to handle in the Argentina area, not once, not twice, you can’t fault my grouse against the nation and their best ever export.

 

News broke out on Wednesday, 25th of November of the passing of one of the most influential personality to ever play the round leather game and the entire world hasn’t stopped paying tribute to the man that divides opinions even in death.

 

Hate him or love him, Diego Maradona is an idol, scratch that, he’s a god; he grew to become a religion many worship in Argentina, he became transcendental and his pictures can be found in Naples along that of Jesus Christ as drawn by Italian artistes.

 

There’s a thin line between the mythical legendary tricky number 10, from the 1982 World Cup to the 1986 triumph in Mexico and the chaotic lifestyle that ultimately ruined him; the art we came to admire and the acts we wished he never got involved in, in all he was flawed but loved regardless.

 

On the field of play, Maradona was unplayable, as a Nigerian, the beef is deep but not as real as that of anyone from the land of the queen; Gary Lineker joined the rest of the world to pay tribute to the fallen giant but not without a dose of sarcasm in reference to the “hand of god” episode and no matter how much anyone wants to dwell on his ills, his feats with football cannot be swept under any carpet.

 

Winning titles across three countries, Argentina, Italy and Spain, as well as a glittering national team career, Maradona earned his respect from almost every quarter that matters and lived, while he had his demons, in the form of drug addiction, sex, alcohol and betting, he will go six feet down as the light of many, as Argentina goes into national mourning and a promise of state burial.

 

Lionel Messi, a certain contender for the all-time greatest said on Wednesday “He is gone but he will be with us for eternity” and that counts for something.

 

Whoever you’re listening to, whatever the version of him you like to dwell on, you will never be able to detach the other side of his incredible coin, one that would be a legal tender even in nations where lateness to a meeting could attract death penalty.

 

Diego Maradona immersed himself into everything he did, he was never a moderate man, everywhere he went, he colored the city, explored and lived the life, from Naples where he redefined the ambitions of the Italian side to Barcelona where the world saw the good, the bad and the ugly side of him.

 

In Argentina, they live for his impassioned World Cups, especially the 1986 edition; in Napoli, they pray for wild Sundays, his draw was magnetic because in a twinkle of your naked eyes, anything could happen and that epitomized his essence.

 

Diego Maradona sucked the marrow out of life, maybe he’d have remained invincible but flaws make men perfect, and Diego was perfect in his own ways, not in my eyes and I’m sure a few others share my sentiments, but he was the god of many.

 

As Argentina labored to victory over Nigeria at the last World Cup in Russia, Maradona was animated at the executive cabin and had to be ushered out at the end, but videos showed earlier as he held a Nigerian lady and asked her to a dance, it could only be Maradona.

 

A mix of both worlds, to every of the 1991 midnight prostitute story that ended with a kid asking him about his game and him later realizing the call was tapped, there will always be a celestial performance that leaves even the heavenly hosts awed at his excellence.

 

In hindsight, while plaudits rain and encomiums drown the body of the late maestro, it would not be left un-asked, if Maradona was an African player, would he have gotten away with the drug issues? Would the world understand?

 

Napoli have confirmed they will rename their stadium after their most illustrious import, Argentina leaders have confirmed he’ll be given a state burial, we expect lots of such from other quarters and for a long time, the name will be in the air like the virus that is currently threatening humanity.

 

Diego Armando Maradona is gone, a legend by all standards, the greatest according to a lot of people, maybe not for me but his place in the history of the round leather game is forever secured, and people come people go… Football remains.

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