Maradona – A Flawed Football Genius!
I was lucky to watch Maradona at the peak of his powers in 1986. For some time, the world had been waiting. In 1978 manager Cesar Menotti resisted the temptation to include him in the World Cup squad despite popular demand. He felt that at 17 the prodigy would not be able to handle the pressure. In Spain for the 1982 World Cup, Maradona who had just signed for Barcelona in a world record transfer fee was left in tears after being given the rough treatment and legendary tight marking by Claudio Gentile the Italian defender. After further frustration by Brazil, Maradona reacted violently and was given a red card. But in the 1986 world cup, the wait was over. Maradona exploded as he led Argentine to the World Cup with a victory over West Germany. He put up a show.
I remember watching most of the matches at one of the elders in my hood Bla Jones’ house. My father was not a football enthusiast so there was little chance of watching that World Cup tournament in our sitting room. On match day or when the highlights were being shown, i would sneak out to Bla Jones to enjoy the action. The match against England in which Bla Jones was supporting the Three Lions defined what Maradona was all about. The man who wore the Argentine jersey with pride, was not afraid to bend the rules. The “Hand of God ” was controversial and made him a hated man especially in England. His second goal which was later voted the goal of the century cemented his stature as arguably the greatest of all time. Then in the semi-final against Belgium he was simply superb. Two goals to the good both brilliant which confirmed him as a football genius. In the Final, although he was subdued for most of the match, he still provided the killer pass for Bruccagg Finally Maradona had arrived, the wait was over!
His battles with drugs and alcohol are well documented. He lived his life in the limelight and the attention proved too much for him. To escape he resorted to drugs and alcohol. Friends in high places like President Fidel Castro tried to help but ultimately the choice was with Diego. Unfortunately , he failed to overcome the demons associated with the scourge of many superstars. Does genius come with that self destruct button? Looking at the football careers of superstars like Paul Gascgoine and George Best one is tempted to think so. Living life in the public gallery can lead to many temptations and these superstars can fall to these. Maradona flawed character exposed him to all these temptations and it affected his health. It is important to accept that Maradona died from a heart attack but did these many years of extravagant living contribute to his relatively early demise? It will not be amiss to conclude thus.
Technically as a footballer , he was a peerless. The 1986 World Cup showed us why. Today is a day of mourning and i join the world in mourning the passing of a football demi-god. He was a gift, a football gift from God. A flawed genius , yes but let us celebrate the joy he gave us. For me 1986 was the year!
Rest in peace legend! What a loss to the football family at large!