The Golden Boy – Diego Armando Maradona

“He is gone but he has not left us, because Diego is eternal.” Ronaldo called him an “unparalleled magician”. Well, it definitely is hard to accept this devastating loss for Argentina and the whole world as well. 2020 hasn’t been a year of fortune, stability, or happiness at all, indeed it brought us this, Diego Maradona, an Argentine professional football player and manager is no more. On 25 November 2020, at the age of 60, Maradona died of a heart attack at his home in Tigre, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  

In Argentina, Maradona is considered a sports hero. He was more than just a great footballer. Talking about his background, Maradona had a humble upbringing, he was bred in the city of Villa Fiorito in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and was born to underprivileged parents. Maradona married long-time fiancée Claudia Villafañe on 7 November 1984 in Buenos Aires, and they had two daughters, Dalma Nerea, born on 2 April 1987, and Gianinna Dinorah, born on 16 May 1989.

When he was eight years old, Maradona came under the eyes of a talent scout when he was playing in the neighbourhood club Estrella Roja. Soon, he started at an early age of 8 years when he joined Las Cebollitas (“The Little Onions”), a boys’ team that went on to win 136 consecutive games and a national championship. His first-division debut was marked at the age of 15 in 1976, 10 days before his 16th birthday, and before this at the age of 14, he signed with Argentinos Juniors. Only four months later, he made his debut with the national team, becoming the youngest Argentine ever to do so.

Maradona was fortunate enough to have a kick-start career at such a young age, but it also had some negative consequences for him when he was excluded from the 1978 World Cup-winning squad because it was felt that he was still too young. But guess what, who knew something great was in store for him? The next year he was the person who led the national under-20 team to a Junior World Cup championship.

Post-retirement from football, he won the FIFA Player of the Century award. He played few charity matches in order to raise money for trusts and organizations. Napoli broke the world record transfer fee that had been set by Diego earlier, paying about $10.5 million for the Argentine.

Diego Armando Maradona played his last tribute game, in Buenos Aires on November 10, 2001. Well, he definitely was a versatile player, but at the same time, you might not know that Maradona holds the record for enduring the most number of fouls during the 1986 World Cup with 53 times. He additionally holds the record for the most number of fouls endured in one match, in 1982 against Italy where they fouled him 23 times.

Maradona was the youngest player to make it to the national team. In 1979 he was declared to be the South American Player of the Year and he led Argentina in the Junior World Cup. He was the newsmaker in 1982 when he was sold to Barcelona for $7.7 million at the age of 21.

In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history for two different reasons.

Do you know what ‘hand of God’ signifies? Well, Maradona scored with his hand against England in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup. After the match, Diego Maradona stated that the goal was scored “a little with his head, and a little with the hand of God”. This goal was also voted as ‘Goal of the Century’ by in the year 2002.

Maradona became the coach of Argentina’s national football team in November 2008. In 2017, he became the coach of Fujairah before leaving at the end of the season. In May 2018, Maradona was announced as the new chairman of the Belarusian club Dynamo Brest. From September 2018 to June 2019, Maradona was the coach of Mexican club Dorados. He was the coach of Argentine Primera División club Gimnasia de La Plata from 2019 until his death in 2020.

His style and techniques of playing football were so unique, being such a famous personality, he was renowned for his dribbling ability, vision, close ball control, passing, and creativity, and is considered one of the most skillful players in the sport. Although he had a compact physique, and with his strong legs, low center of gravity, and resulting balance, he could withstand physical pressure well while running with the ball, despite his small stature, while his acceleration, quick feet, and agility, combined with his dribbling skills and close control at speed, allowed him to change direction quickly, making him difficult for opponents to defend against. Maradona was also known for his finishing and goalscoring ability. Even though he was known for his penchant for undertaking individual runs with the ball, he was also a strategist and an intelligent team player, with excellent spatial awareness, as well as being highly technical with the ball.

In 2000, he won the FIFA Player of the Century award which was to be decided by votes on their official website, their official magazine, and a grand jury. He has given a new definition to the attacking midfielder position and is also predominantly termed as the second striker.

FIFA planned to have a player of the century prize for the new thousand years in 2000. After in the end conclude that Maradona and Pele would share the honour, Pele stated: “If the event that he believes he’s the best player of the century that is only his concern.” While having made 694 appearances and scored 354 goals for club and country combined, Maradona’s goalscoring average was 0.51, and captaining the Argentina national football team 16 times, and leading his nation to the World Cup title in 1986. It was quite shocking and unbelievable as well when Maradona was banned from football for 15 months in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine. But it was true about him, that as good as he was at football he was famous for his frequent lack of control as well on and off-field, all due to his cocaine addiction.

Ever since 1986, it is common for Argentines abroad to hear Maradona’s name as a token of recognition, even in remote places. By 1982, Maradona had become one of the biggest sports stars in the world and had endorsements with many companies, including Puma and Coca-Cola, earning him an additional $1.5 million per year on top of his club salary. In 1982, he featured in a World Cup commercial for Coca-Cola, and a Japanese commercial for Puma. In 2010 he appeared in a commercial for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton, indulging in a game of table football with fellow World Cup winners Pelé and Zinedine Zidane. In 2017, Maradona was featured as a legendary player in the football video games FIFA 18 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018. In 2019, a documentary film titled Diego Maradona was released by Academy Award and BAFTA Award winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia.

Did you know? Maradona was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice, first when he transferred to Barcelona for a then-world record £5 million, and second, when he transferred to Napoli for another record fee £6.9 million. He played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys during his club career, and is most famous for his time at Napoli and Barcelona where he won numerous accolades. While both, Maradona and Messi are the main footballers to have earned the Golden Ball award at both the FIFA U-20 World Cup and FIFA World Cup.

He is considered the greatest Argentine football player in history, and many think he is the greatest soccer player of all times. When asked, at the age of 17 he said that his two dreams were to play in the world cup and the second one is of course to win it. Well, the man not only achieved so much in life, on the top of it, he won tremendous respect and love from people. The Golden Boy will be remembered for his achievements and the laurels he brought to his nation in the time to come.