I heard the news of Diego Maradona passing away late last night (India time). He was only 60.
Growing up in India in the 1980s, my earliest memory of international football is watching the 1986 World Cup on Mexico. And who can forget the ‘goal of the century’ that Diego Maradona scored against England in the Quarter-finals of that tournament. He went on to score two more goals against Belgium in the Semi-finals and assisted the match-winning goal against Germany in the finals.
He could not match those feats again in the 1990 World Cup, but Argentina did manage to reach the finals, losing to Germany by a solitary goal. And he played two matches in the 1994 World Cup in the USA before being sent home after a failed drugs test.
At that time, in India, it was not very easy to follow club matches. So it was only much later that I read about Maradona’s exploits with Napoli in the Italian League. It is an astonishing story. He joined a relatively ‘unsexy’ club that had never previously won the Italian League and led it to a stupendous run of results – winning the League in 1986-87 and 1989-90 and finishing Runners-Up in 1987-88 and 1988-89. Napoli also won the Italian Cup and the UEFA Cup during this period.
It is fair to say, I guess, that this story of Maradona’s genius was not as well knows as his World Cup exploits. Here are some articles that try to convey what Maradona meant to the city of Naples:
His time at Naples was also the theme of a documentary by Asif Kapadia, simply called ‘Diego Maradona‘.
There is no doubt that for people of my generation, he was the best football player ever.
As I woke up this morning, still processing the news that he is no longer with us, I saw that the skies were grey and a steady rain was falling. It was as if the heavens themselves were shedding tears. As many have commented, there will never be another like Diego Maradona again. Rest in Peace, Legend.