Argentine football icon Diego Maradona is undoubtedly one of the greatest football players of all time. He brought the World Cup to his country in 1986. He lead various Italian, Spanish and Argentine clubs to notable championship trophies. His unprecedented skills and expertise made him a sports legend. But multiple drug and other scandals has also made his eventful career controversial.
Diego Armando Maradona in Argentina’s Buenos Aires province on 30 October 1960. Grown up at Villa Fiorito city, Maradona was fifth among the eight children of Diego Sr. and Dona Tota. In his poverty ridden life, Maradona got his first football as a gift at the age of 3. The gift made him attracted to the game and changed his life for ever.
When Maradona was 10, he joined Los Cebollitas, the youth wing one of the major Argentine clubs Argentinos Juniors. With his excellent football skill, he managed to grab everyone’s attention there. In 1976, days before his 16th birthday, Maradona was included in the senior team of the club. He played for Argentinos Juniors for 5 years.
In 1981, another popular Argentine club Boca Juniors bought Maradona at $4 million. He got more attractive offers from other clubs too, but Maradona settled down in Boca Juniors as he mentioned the club as where he dreamt of playing from his childhood.
After the 1982 World Cup, Maradona shifted himself from Boca Juniors to Barcelona. The Spanish football giant spent $7 million to get Diego Maradona. However his days in Berca wasn’t as pleasant as he expected. It was full of injuries, sickness and controversies. In 1984, Maradona joined Italian club Napoli. After spending few years there and also in Spanish club Sarvilla in 1992 and Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 1993, Diego Maradona returned back to Boca Juniors in 1995.
World Cup Journey
Maradona played his first World Cup in 1982 in Spain. However he couldn’t make much impression in that World Cup. Getting only 2 goals in entire tournament, Maradona even failed to take Argentina to the knock out round.
But the next one was his. In the 1986 Mexico World Cup Diego Maradona not only proved himself, also gained legendary status as a footballer. In the 13th edition of the World Cup, Argentina won the title for the first time under Maradona’s captaincy.
In entire Mexico World Cup, Argentina won 6 of all 7 matches, leaving one as draw. Second highest 5 goals came from Maradona’s boots.
In the quarter final of this World Cup, Maradona did his super controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal against England. Argentina won this match by 2-1. During the first goal, the ball touched Maradona’s hand before entering the post. Referee missed the incident and awarded the goal to Argentina. Outrage spread across the world. Maradona later admitted that the ball touched his hand, but commented, it was actually not his hand, it was the ‘Hand of God’.
However for his second goal in the same match, Maradona will be hailed for ever. Getting the ball in Argentine side, running with it throughout more than half of the field, passing five English footballers and the goalkeeper off course, Maradona delivered one of the greatest goals in football history. The goal was later in 2002 voted as the ‘Goal of the Century’ in FIFA online poll.
After after a controversial but successful quarter final match, Argentina defeated Belgium in semi final by 2-0. Then in the final, Team Maradona beat West Germany by 3-2 making Argentina the winner of the World Cup for the first time in history. Diego Armando Maradona won the FIFA Golden Ball and love of millions across the globe.
Maradona participated in the 1990 Italy and 1994 United States World Cup too. In Italy World Cup, Argentina had to be satisfy with the Runner’s Up trophy after being defeated by West Germany in the final. However in the USA World Cup, Maradona’s team showed a poor performance and got knocked out from the knock out round.
Drug and Retirement
During the peak years of his career in the 1980s, Maradona became addicted in cocaine. For that he was banned from football in 1991 for 15 months. Three years later during the 1995 World Cup, Maradona was tested positive for another illegal drug ephedrine. That made him again banned by FIFA.
Maradona’s football skill was also declining by then with his growing age. Considering the reality, Diego Maradona announced his retirement from football as a player in 1997.
Maradona became engaged as coaches and managers in various local and international club after his retirement. United Arab Emirates’ ‘Al Wasl FC’ and ‘Fujairah’, Argentina’s ‘Deportivo Riestra’ and ‘Gimnasia de La Plata’, Mexico’s ‘Dorados’ are among them.
Upon the then Argentine national team’s coach Alfio Basile’s resignation in 2008, Maradona showed interest for the post. After examining his and other candidates’ applications, Argentine football federation awarded the job to Maradona in October same year.
Argentina participated their first World Cup under Maradona’s coaching in 2010. At the group of the South Africa World Cup, Argentina beat Nigeria by 1-0, South Korea by 4-1 and Greece by 2-0. They defeated Mexico too in the knock out round by 3-1. With consecutive four wins, when Argentina’s confidence was at the peak, the team got a major shock in quarter final. Germany destroyed them by 4-1. Maradona and his team returned home with fifth place in the World Cup. Argentine football federation decided next month not to extend Maradona’s term as national coach.
Maradona married his long time girlfriend Claudia Villafane in 1984. The couple had two daughters. Maradona and Claudia became divorced in 2004. However they are still enjoying a friendly relation between them. The couple is often seen in stadiums enjoying football matches together. In the 2006 Germany World Cup, Maradona and Caludia watched the Argentine matches together from the gallery.
In early 90s, a woman from Italy’s Napoli claimed that Maradona was the father of her son Diego Sinagra. As Maradona declined the claim, the matter went to the court. As Maradona refused to perform DNA test to find out whether he was the biological father of the boy, the court in 1993 declared Maradona as Diego Sinagra’s father. After denying the fact for many years, Maradona at last acknowledged Sinagra as his son in 2016. In the mean time, reports on atleast five more ‘illegitimate’ children of Diego Maradona came to media.
Diego Maradona had suffered numerous health issues during his lifetime many of which were caused by drugs. He had to be admitted to hospitals in a couple of incidents, but every time overcame them and returned home safely.
But on 25 November 2020, after a sudden heart attack, Diego Maradona took his last breath in Buenos Aires residence. The world became stunned with the news.
Maradona’s body was taken to Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace for people to pay their last respect.
Wrapped with the national flag of Argentina, Maradona’s iconic ‘number 10’ jerseys of Argentine national team, Boca Juniors club and Argentinos Juniors club were placed over his coffin. Huge crowd gathered at the presidential palace to bid farewell to their legend.
On 26 November, after a short private funeral, Diego Maradona was buried next to his parents in the Bella Vista cemetery in Buenos Aires.