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Sport OBITUARY: Maradona rose from poverty to become one of the greatest

07:20  26 november  2020
07:20  26 november  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

Obituary: Argentine soccer genius Maradona saw heaven and hell

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OBITUARY : A genius on the pitch and a flawed idol off it – Diego Maradona rose from the poverty of the Buenos Aires slums to become one of the greatest ever despite controversy following him wherever he went. Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack - just two

To many, Diego Maradona is best remembered for the Hand of God goal that knocked England out of Mexico 86 and his later descent into drugs. But Jeff Powell, who was the first British journalist to recognise his genius, believes the little Argentine should be celebrated as the greatest player

Diego Maradona et al. standing in front of a crowd: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

To many, Diego Maradona is best remembered for the Hand of God goal that knocked England out of Mexico 86 and his later descent into drugs.

But Jeff Powell, who was the first British journalist to recognise his genius, believes the little Argentine should be celebrated as the greatest player (bar one) to have graced the game

a man standing in front of a crowd: Diego Maradona, one of the all-time ultimate legends of football, has died at the age of 60 © Provided by Daily Mail Diego Maradona, one of the all-time ultimate legends of football, has died at the age of 60 a group of people watching a football game: Many will remember him for the  'Hand of God' but the little Argentine was so much more © Provided by Daily Mail Many will remember him for the  'Hand of God' but the little Argentine was so much more

Two nights after Argentina's tumultuous winning of the 1978 World Cup, the streets of Buenos Aires still thronged with millions of celebrants as Cesar Luis Menotti held court in the bar of a downtown hotel.

OBITUARY: Maradona rose from poverty to become one of the greatest

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JEFF POWELL: To many, Diego Maradona is best remembered for the Hand of God goal that knocked England out of Mexico 86 and his later descent into drugs. Diego Maradona , one of the greatest footballers of all time, dies aged 60.

As he rose to claim it, he was challenged by Maradona , who used his left hand to punch the ball into the net. The infringement was not spotted by the officials Four minutes later Maradona scored one of the finest goals ever seen. Receiving the ball just inside his own half, he began to bear down on the

That most languid of football managers was savouring the moment of glory with his heroes.

As Menotti clinked glasses with Passarella and Ardiles, Kempes and Luque, a slight figure sat in a dim corner, too small to be noticed and too young to drink.

Diego Armando Maradona was occupying only a vague corner of Menotti's mind.

The boy slipped away early into the night and not until dawn was breaking did Menotti have reason to discuss the future of that almost anonymous teenager.

Mario Kempes, the goal-scoring hero in the World Cup and its extraordinary final against Holland, had just informed his manager that he was unlikely to be released by his Spanish club for FIFA's anniversary showpiece fixture, to which Argentina were committed a couple of months later.

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As the players dispersed, in the reluctant way that triumphant gladiators do, I asked Menotti how he could possibly replace the great Kempes for such a prestigious occasion.

'Did you notice that boy in the bar earlier?' he asked. 'He will be wearing the No 10 shirt the next time we take the field.

'Let me give you one piece of advice. Be there.' Maradona had been disappointed to be considered too young at 17 to be part of the home glory of 1978. But the advent of the unlikely looking genius who was to become the most potent challenger to Pele's mantle of Greatest Footballer Of All Time would not be delayed much longer.

As advised, I travelled to Switzerland that autumn and watched in some awe as Maradona unfurled his phenomenal talent in Argentina's reprise of their World Cup Final against Holland.

Such was my enthusiasm for the new wonder boy of the world game that several of my most distinguished sportswriting colleagues chided me gently for going over the top. But they had not been there.

Diego Maradona once said he hated 'everything' from the US, and called President George W. Bush 'human trash'

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Headlines the world over paid tribute to the Argentina great , but there was some residual bitterness in certain sections of the UK press. Lionel Messi, another Argentinian who is considered one of the greatest active players, was quoted as saying, “ Maradona isn’t gone.

Maradona , regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend. There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. OBITUARY : A genius on the pitch and a flawed idol off it - Diego Maradona rose from the poverty of

When Argentina toured on from Switzerland, first to Hampden Park, then to Wembley, so the rest of Fleet Street saw Maradona's brilliance for themselves - and were astonished.

Not for nothing will the whole world of football now fall into mourning.

The facile tendency in England to vilify Maradona as nothing more than the culprit in the handball goal that defeated Bobby Robson's brigade in the World Cup quarter-finals of Mexico 86 does no justice to one of the most gifted sportsmen of all time.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Maradona was one of the most gifted sportsmen of all time, even though in England he has been vilified for his 'Hand of God' goal against Bobby Robson's side in Mexico in 1986 © Provided by Daily Mail Maradona was one of the most gifted sportsmen of all time, even though in England he has been vilified for his 'Hand of God' goal against Bobby Robson's side in Mexico in 1986

As Menotti described him on that long, hot night so many years earlier: 'You will see that this boy, Diego, is a footballer made in heaven.'

Argentina's love affair with their flawed phenomenon is all the stronger because he was born in the barrios.

Maradona, as he rose from the poverty of the Buenos Aires slums to play for the team which represented every poor boy's dream, Boca Juniors, and then to illuminate Argentina's World Cup exploits, became a symbol of hope for a people.

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That he is a rascal, an incorrigible mischief-maker, a troubled human being and, ultimately, a waster of his own talent, only serves to make him all the more appealing to his fellow countrymen.

They like their genius to come wrapped in controversy and bubbling with volatility in South America.

That was one reason why Pele was so reluctant to embrace the natural successor to his throne. The other was that Maradona represented the most threatening challenge to the legendary Brazilian's unique place in the pantheon of the game.

Maradona became a symbol of hope for his country as he rose from the Buenos Aires slums to play for Boca Juniors (above) and then achieved World Cup glory with Argentina © Provided by Daily Mail Maradona became a symbol of hope for his country as he rose from the Buenos Aires slums to play for Boca Juniors (above) and then achieved World Cup glory with Argentina Diego Maradona, Pele are posing for a picture: His rise went far beyond his homeland - Maradona's ability places him among the greatest to ever play the game, alongside Brazil icon Pele. Here, the legendary attackers are pictured together in Paris in 2016 ahead of the European Championship that year © Provided by Daily Mail His rise went far beyond his homeland - Maradona's ability places him among the greatest to ever play the game, alongside Brazil icon Pele. Here, the legendary attackers are pictured together in Paris in 2016 ahead of the European Championship that year

The unlikely body in which those mercurial gifts were to be found - short, squat, bowlegged and no-necked - made Maradona's status in Pele's beautiful game all the more difficult to acknowledge.

Yet it was that low centre of gravity which blessed Diego Armando with a remarkable dexterity on the turn and acceleration with the ball. It was that capacity to produce magical skills at electrifying pace especially in the deadly zone around goal - which still sets Maradona apart from even the sublime likes of Zidane, Ronaldo, Cruyff, Platini and all the rest of Pele's apostles.

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The most vivid demonstration of those talents came, as we should remember, against England in Mexico.

Robson and his players of the day remember it only too well.

No, not the cross nudged in with his hand but the other goal, the one he scored with a dazzling pirouette away from a posse of England players, an unstoppable run from the halfway line and a typically impudent finish. That stands, still, as the greatest World Cup goal of all time.

But what of the Hand of God?

Does that not diminish Maradona's reputation as much as his misspent life?

Not, if pressed to the truth, in the estimation of Lineker, Robson and Co.

Whisper it gently when Peter Shilton is in earshot but, for the most part, the England team faulted their goalkeeper for not thumping his way through the head and body of the short Maradona to clear the ball. A calm study of the photograph of that incident now reveals Maradona with his eyes closed and his arm raised as if to protect himself from the expected impact of Shilton's advance from his line.

a group of people watching a football game: A calm look at the 'Hand of God' suggests Peter Shilton, the England goalkeeper, could have done much more to get to the ball before Maradona diverted it over him and into the net © Provided by Daily Mail A calm look at the 'Hand of God' suggests Peter Shilton, the England goalkeeper, could have done much more to get to the ball before Maradona diverted it over him and into the net a man playing a game of football: It was Maradona himself who described that goal against England in 1986 as 'The Hand of God' © Provided by Daily Mail It was Maradona himself who described that goal against England in 1986 as 'The Hand of God'

Subsequently, he became the victim of his own, clever little phrase to describe that momentous happening.

Maradona and Argentina deserved to win that World Cup. Four years later, he was the captain and hero of the team which lost that trophy and I do mean hero.

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Argentina staggered into the Final - which Germany reached by virtue of their expert penalty shootout against England - under the self-inflicted handicap of several suspensions as a consequence of their cynical football.

But Maradona was still trying to work his magic even though he had virtually been crippled by opponents desperate to subdue him. He showed me his ankles two days before the Final - a forlorn affair in Argentina's case - and they were as black, blue and swollen as his self-abused body is now.

By the time he got to the United States in 1994, he was sustaining himself on drugs and, after one magical but manic moment, was caught and shamed by the testers.

Mistaken though he had been in his means of trying to cling to the failing glories, he was a lost soul from that moment on.

The addictions, the scandals, the physical assaults on intrusive representatives of the media and the retreat to such absurd havens as Havana all spoke of his desperation.

a group of people watching a football game: By the time Maradona (centre) got to the USA World Cup in 1994, he was sustaining himself on drugs and, after one magical but manic moment, was caught and shamed by the testers © Provided by Daily Mail By the time Maradona (centre) got to the USA World Cup in 1994, he was sustaining himself on drugs and, after one magical but manic moment, was caught and shamed by the testers Diego Maradona wearing a baseball hat: Maradona pictured in March 2020 in his role as manager of Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima © Provided by Daily Mail Maradona pictured in March 2020 in his role as manager of Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima

Argentina still loved him but he no longer loved himself.

Maradona saw himself for what he is, the little fat boy who never grew up.

In the eyes of his nation, he was Peter Pan, an enchanting child, albeit in a grotesque, misshapen form.

Now, after bringing so many so much pleasure, he is due a full measure of our sympathy.

Think of him not as the Hand of God. Think of him as the second greatest footballer ever to grace the game. Perhaps the greatest.

Think of him not as a drugged fiend. Think of him as a broken doll in a toy hospital A Pinocchio awaiting the gift of life.

That blessing which the hand of God had delivered several times before. Until the Almighty decided the time had come to ring peace to this tortured soul.

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Remembering Diego Maradona, a leftie on the field — and in politics .
While Diego Maradona never ran or held public office, his success on the field, larger-than-life personality and friendships with leftist leaders connected him to political life in Argentina and across Latin America over more than three decades. “Fútbol is practically our religion. It’s impossible to separate Argentina from fútbol,” said Patricio Eleisegui, a fan from Argentina who last week visited Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, the site of the 1986 England game. “Maradona was a representation of all our dreams.

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