On the death of a legend: Maradona is now touching heaven with the hand of God
Diego Armando Maradona is a footballer the likes of which the world has never seen before and never after. In his home country Argentina and Naples in particular, the world champion is stylized as a deity. At some point, Maradona suffocates in affection. To the death of a legend.
A black line and a circle on a light blue and white background. The number 10. The number of the playmaker as a diaspora, like a dividing line to the profane underclass of football.
It’s scorching hot, the sun is stinging, the stadium is steaming, and the black mane is billowing in the wind when Diego Armando Maradona, 165 centimeters tall, runs off on compact, powerful legs, the ball so close to his foot as if it had merged with it , one feint to the left, one to the right, Maradona is getting faster and faster, his center of gravity deeper and deeper, he can no longer be held, another one and another. No: nobody stops it. Not him, not now.
Myth of Maradona: “Our Diego” is prayed in church
In the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico between Argentina and England, Maradona scored the goal of the century. He is world champion, six times South America’s footballer of the year, four times Argentina’s footballer of the year, he will be as indescribably good as perhaps no one before and after. He catapults himself into heaven and brutally sinks into hell. It cokes until Wednesday and shines on Saturday. He will be so fat that he can barely speak. He uses the keyboard of maximum contrasts. He is Maradona.
In front of the goal of the century against England, he cheated the ball past the keeper with his hand in the same game. Anyone else would have been ostracized, and rightly so. Diego Maradona says: “It was the head of Maradona and the hand of God.”
The Maradona myth is difficult to pin down and even harder to grasp, perhaps impossible. In the weddings of hype, which is actually hubris, its offshoots appear bizarre. There is a Maradona museum, a Maradona musical, a Maradona church where “Our Diego” is celebrated. Everything about Maradona is hectic, hysterical, enervating, constantly pulsating; grotesquely inflated. This football and social fascination is stylized in the sacred rank of a deity as the world experiences it exactly once.
Diego Maradona and Naples – a deity arises
At the age of 15, Diego Maradona, still a boy, made his debut in the first division of Argentina. At 16 he was a national player, at 17 he was already the top scorer and at 19 the best on his continent. He plays for Boca Juniors (1981-1982) and Barcelona (1982-1984), he’s the best again and he knows it.
Then Maradona moves to SSC Napoli. The baptismal font of change. Anyone who wants to understand his story must understand the circumstances into which he is being thrown. More precisely: the one he chooses.
The football club Napoli is interwoven with the culture of its city in southern Italy, crime is higher, so is the contempt for the rich north and the SSC is a frowned upon almost relegated. “Italy’s sewer”, mock the fans of Juventus and Milan. The proud Neapolitans do not pronounce it, but they suffer from complexes of inferiority. Then comes Diego. At that time already a saint in shorts.
Maradona, herself from the slums of Buenos Aires, will understand, adapt, and alleviate the Neapolitan absence of dignity, and people will adore him because they recognize him. With Maradona as a shining star, SSC Napoli will win its only championships in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989. Diego kisses the city and the city kisses Diego. Roaring tumults.
Maradona’s fall into delirium: crushed by affection
Of course, Maradona’s creeping fall into delirium must be based on the paradox that it is not his drug addiction that originally stifles him, but rather the respectful affection of the people. Naples makes Maradona big and broken. More than 70,000 Tifosi flock to the Stadio San Paolo for the performance, and his doorstep becomes a place of pilgrimage; Once a nurse is said to have stolen a blood sample from Maradona and brought it to church. There are statues of him placed there.
The football player can control the situation as long as he plays football (“Life becomes unimportant on the pitch”), at some point the dam collapses and with it the Maradona system. Crashing. Alcohol, prostitutes, mafia, clergy, addictions, the hamster wheel spins even faster than Maradona’s legs, the suction pulls him down, the silence is loud. Cocaine and collapse: “One line – and I felt like Superman.” Excesses.
On his return to Argentina in 1991, Maradona was sentenced to 14 months probation and suspended for 15 months, he still played in Seville (1992-1993), Newell’s Old Boys (1993-1994) and Boca Juniors (1995-1997). At the beginning of 1994 Maradona shoots journalists with an air rifle, 34 months probation, in mid-1994 he plays the World Cup in America. Doping, suspension, the end.
“Once he’s gone, he’ll be loved even more”
Maradona, the ingenious and driven, is an extraordinary survivor at the limit of reasonableness. Bloated, round like a balloon, sawed off TV presenter, confused trainer, badly damaged in terms of health. Withdrawal therapy, stomach reduction, antidepressants. And love. When he was operated on for a cerebral haemorrhage at the beginning of November 2020, fans flocked in front of the hospital, the black number 10 stuck on their back. They pray for “Pibe de Oro”, the golden boy.
“He lives every moment as if it were his last,” says Maradona’s fitness trainer Fernando Signorini once. “Once he’s gone, he’ll be loved even more.”
Diego Armando Maradona dies on November 25th, 2020. He will be 60 years old.
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