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I was 5 when I fell in love with Maradona, so he’s sort of always been part of my life.

“There he is, fucking CHEAT!” I remember my Dad spitting at our shitty little TV.

I have no idea what he’s talking about of course, I just remember seeing this man in his lovely blue and white shirt with incredibly short shorts booting the ball up in the air over and over again, and juggling it with his shoulder. I had recently started playing football myself and all I now want to do is go outside and try this. He was instantly the coolest person I’d ever seen. 

Diego doesn’t have the best tournament (it will become apparent to me years later why), neither do Argentina despite getting to the final (nostalgia burns bright with this tournament as it really wasn’t great), and in my 5 year old eyes he is overshadowed by Gazza.

But when we go out to play on the concrete ‘pitch’ outside after every match, I’m of course Gazza, but my sister and the older kids all argue about who is Maradona. He is the one they all want to be. It never occurs to them that they can all be Maradona if they want, but this was how we played.

Later that summer when the VHS tapes of the World Cup are released, I watch them over and over, falling in love with Hagi, Schifo, Matthaus and Maradona. The number 10s. These players to me were what football was all about: fun, free and artistic. The glory game and all that. 

Someone gives me a tape of 1986 World Cup highlights and I can sort of see why my Dad called him a “cheat”, but also why everyone else calls him a genius. 

At that age, I loved England and was devastated when they lost to Germany in 90 and then got dumped out of Euro 92, but seeing Maradona rise above Shilton and punch it in didn’t bother me. I loved Diego more. Fuck Shilton. 

I adored retrospectively seeing him single handedly winning the World Cup. No one has ever done that before or since (possibly Ronaldo in 2002 but that is a massive stretch and I’m dismissing Pele because I can). It made me sort of resent Andreas Brehme for years weirdly. How dare he deny Diego a second victory?

Then 1994. No England, so no guilt in supporting West Germany and Argentina. I don’t even know if I was aware of the drugs ban then, but I just remember being so happy to be able to see him play again. And then going mental when he banged in that goal against Greece and his subsequent celebration.

And then he was gone. For years. We didn’t have the internet, and so used to have to make do with random sightings on Trans World Sport or something. He was always around, and there were snippets of news here and there of him shooting at people, or being in fights, or not being well, but he was always here.

His book was released (which is fantastic by the way) and the documentaries, and it seemed like he was beginning to be at peace with himself and face his demons.

It’s only in the last 10 years or so I reckon that public opinion on him has changed massively. On my estate growing up, even though the kids all wanted to play like Maradona, to the parents and older kids he was just another cheat, and to admit that you loved Maradona was to be honest, probably risk a lashing off the belt (yeah my Dad wasn’t great). 

I was devastated this afternoon, and I still am. I went for a long walk to clear my head and have a few fags, and then felt really silly for being so upset about someone I don’t know. But it’s not the person so much I suppose, as what he represents. He is the beauty of football. 

When I came home, I spoke to my step brother in Naples for a while, and if it’s fair to say that if I loved him, well then Davide was obsessed. It’s really easy to overlook just how important he is to the people of Naples, and how huge them winning the scudetto in 1987 and 1990 was. 

Naples is a very unique and special place, and you can be very ‘high class’ from there and still be looked down upon by the rest of the country, so the poor really are treated incredibly badly and Diego was their physical representation on the pitch. He spoke for them. Davide was 15 when Napoli won their first. He credits him as changing his entire life.

My step mum, who has no time for football and lived in Naples during the 1980s tells me how he transformed the city and made them all feel proud again. She said wherever you went it was chaos, and the celebrations lasted months. She once saw him in a restaurant and said it was like the Pope was there, such was the fervour of the people around him.

The first time I went there, I went out on my own and found myself in a cafe with a load of old boys and despite not speaking the same language, we started talking about him and you could see just how much he meant. My brother said Naples would weep tonight for the son that they loved more than they loved Italy.

He was a complicated lad, and my favourite Diego was angry indignant Diego. Kicking the shit out of the Bilbao pussies, the DIRTIEST look he gives the England team lining up in 86, chatting shit about Pele and my favourite; screaming “Hijo de puta” at the whole stadium after the Italians had booed the Argentine national anthem before the 1990 final. He was fucking SEETHING, and rightfully so. They did betray him then. Bastardos.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, or why I’ve written it, but I’ll massively miss him, and am welling up again. The best player of all time. My favourite player of all time. He had two dreams: To play in a World Cup with Argentina, and win it. He did both in the greatest way. I hope he’s happy.

“The mistakes people make shouldn’t affect football. I made mistakes and I paid for them. But the ball is always clean”

This is one of my favourite clips of him. He's SO happy and proud, I love it.

(Sorry for the ramble but didn't want to clog up the death thread.)

Edit: anyone that hasn't seen it, Asif Kapadias documentary is on More 4 at 1.15am.

Edited by SuperBacon
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@SuperBaconthat's a cracking post!

Have to echo the love for El Diego, it's a fantastic autobiography. It came out in 07 so it doesn't deal with the latter part of his life, but it's brilliant and covers his childhood, career, his take on the handball, the drugs, everything. It's really interesting to hear his thoughts on football in general. And he comes across as extremely likeable and charming as fuck for most of it. Even if it's possible he's not the most reliable narrator. That's part of his charm.

RIP Maradona. We'll never see his like again, which is probably a good thing as I don't think modern football could handle such an enormous whirlwind personality on such a massive scale. No one person is bigger than the game, obviously, but Diego Maradona got closer than most to that sort of status. 


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3 minutes ago, stewdogg said:

 I’ve never seen him play, don’t want to see him play. 


3 minutes ago, stewdogg said:

He’s not better than Pele, Messi or either Ronaldo. 

I'm not saying you're wrong necessarily, you're entitled to your opinion, but if you've never seen him play, how can you assess if he's better than those listed? Surely it's not a fair comparison.

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56 minutes ago, stewdogg said:

In my mind Maradona is a cheat whether it’s the handball or the drugs.

One thing that always makes me smile when people (usually English people) get all indignant about his handball and "cheating" in that game is how quickly they seem to forget the rest of the 90 minutes.

I'd advise anyone with an hour and a half spare to track down the full game and watch it, because if there was any cheating going on, it was equally spread across both sides that day.

I know everyone gets all misty-eyed when talking about Bobby Robson, but it was clear he sent his team out there that day to kick the absolute shit out of Maradona. Be it Terry Fenwick blatantly elbowing him in the face not once, but twice, or Peter Reid taking him out with the kind of tackle that honestly would have ended the game and potentially the tournament of any other player.

Robson and England knew they'd been allocated a soft, naive referee in the boy from Tunisia, and they went about their game plan of stopping Maradona cynically and with intent to hurt.

Anyone who's seen the recent documentaries on Maradona, and have seen him hobbling around like a 90 year old man despite being in his 50's at the time will have seen that while bellends like Shilton, Butcher and Reid cry about losing a game of football 30 odd years ago, Maradona had to live with the cumulative effect of those tackles he received throughout his career from players who weren't anywhere near talented enough to stop him fairly and within the rules of the game.

So fuck that England team from 1986. They were no better than the dirty, fouling Uruguayans and Argentinians that their nationalist fans liked to look down upon. 

Maradona and that Argentina team were no angels, but they didn't pretend they were. 

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8 minutes ago, stewdogg said:

Fucking hell it was a poor post but partially quoting it makes it worse. 

I would try to clarify but I’ll only make it worse. 

You edited your post to this....

1 hour ago, stewdogg said:

I’ve seen snippets of all his bad stuff and that’s enough to know he was obviously a horrible little cunt. 

....so you're probably best off not 'clarifying'.

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18 minutes ago, stewdogg said:

I would try to clarify but I’ll only make it worse.

Much like Shilts on that balmy afternoon in the Estadio Azteca, you've had a bit of a 'mare. 

The question is, will you just dust yourself off and walk away? Or draw it out like cunty Pete did?

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The best thing I can say about Mando is that he was the first person I remember deeming 'Larger than Life' and basically otherworldly, in my wee mind.

I was just 6, and I remember - clearly - watching the England/Argentina game live on telly during Mexico 86 with me da, uncle and cousins and just being in total and utter awe of the man.
I was Everton mad then too, and I remember initially wanting England to win - much to the chagrin of everyone in the house - because of Reid, Stevens and Lineker (or Line-Ayker, as he was referred to on commentary), but that soon faded when he did all that he did during that game, and I just wanted to go outside on the road with my mates and emulate that crazy, wonderful, tough little bollix, Maradona.
I also robbed a Mexico 86 Pique Kinder Egg toy off my cousin that night and there was uproar as he had a nervo about it going missing, everyone was looking for it, and I had it resting against my undercarriage.

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