Diego Maradona dies: When Argentina's erratic genius overstepped the line

Oleh John Skilbeck 26 November 2020 9
Diego Maradona dies: When Argentina's erratic genius overstepped the line

Diego Maradona was a majestic footballer who was idolised by millions worldwide, but the Argentina great was not the best role model off the pitch.

His death at the age of 60 on Wednesday led to an outpouring of grief from within sport and beyond.

The 1986 World Cup winner is revered in his homeland, where thousands queued to file past his coffin on Thursday morning, as well as in Italy, where he played arguably the best football of his career for Napoli.

Maradona also battled major drug and alcohol problems, once shot at journalists, had a turbulent private life and took a swipe at Pope John Paul II.

Those episodes all form part of the legend and the bigger picture when it comes to remembering the most talented player of his generation.

DRUGS DON'T WORK

Maradona was said to have first dabbled in drugs in the mid-1980s, and cocaine began to play a big part in his career. In Naples, a city where chaos plays a big part in the daily life of many, Maradona lived on the edge, risking his health with the Class A drug while attempting to still produce on the pitch.

His form began to fall away, and comeuppance came with a 15-month drugs ban imposed in 1991, before Maradona moved to Sevilla.

A seemingly resurgent Maradona was sent home from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for a banned stimulant, and drugs continued to be a problem for Argentina's favourite son after he retired from playing. He later claimed to have given up drugs in 2004, following serious heart problems that led him to spend time in intensive care.

GUN DRAMA

Maradona was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence of two years and 10 months in 1998, four years on from an incident that saw him shoot at journalists with an air rifle.

The February 1994 episode occurred outside his Buenos Aires home, and it was reported that four people were injured.

Footage showed Maradona perched behind a Mercedes car, pointing the gun.

TAXING TIMES

He claimed to have been "treated like the worst criminal" by Italian authorities that were pursuing him for allegedly unpaid taxes.

Speaking in 2016, Maradona told the Corriere della Sera newspaper: "I don't owe anything. They have been hounding me unfairly over the last 25 years for €40million with €35million in fines for an alleged tax violation that every single judge has ruled did not exist."

Maradona added, according to ESPN, that he had been singled out as the only footballer to have jewellery and watches taken away by authorities.

HOW WOULD HE MANAGE?

Putting Maradona in charge of the Argentina national team looked like a dicey move, and his two-year reign effectively ended with a 4-0 defeat to Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.

Argentina had been in danger of missing out on the tournament but won their last two qualifying matches to scrape into the finals.

Maradona was predictably elated with qualification, proving his doubters wrong, and ran into trouble when he told reporters to "suck it and keep on sucking it".

FIFA imposed a two-month ban for the lewd outburst, with Maradona apologising for his comments.

CEILING A DEAL WITH THE POPE

By the late 1980s, Maradona was arguably the world's most celebrated sports star.

Such celebrity status opens doors, and he met with Pope John Paul II.

Maradona told a story in his autobiography, I Am Diego, of how he took issue with the pontiff's concern for poverty-stricken children, given the luxury set-up at the Vatican.

He wrote: "Yes, I did argue with the Pope. I argued with him because I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying that the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, mate! Do something!"

HAND OF GOD

From the Pope, to the Hand of God.

Maradona's status in England will forever be tainted by his controversial opening goal for Argentina against Bobby Robson's team in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.

By punching the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who has not forgiven Maradona, the mercurial captain of Los Albiceleste became an instant hate figure for English supporters.

Maradona claimed it was God's hand that helped Argentina past their rivals at the Stadio Azteca, a step nearer their eventual triumph and his finest moment in the game.

Tentang Penulis

John Skilbeck

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