How do you write an article on an Idol, a Football Idol?
I’ll start by writing his name Diego Maradona.
The year is 2020 and battle has commenced, on society at least, I won’t bore you with the depiction of living conditions but let’s just say that life and community as we know it has taken a drastic change, a far cry from our subjects’ lifestyle and career.
It draws on me to suggest that when we lose a person like Maradona we also lose that ability to fall back on his charm and heroics.
He is gone.
The hero, The villain, The magician, The mastery, The entertainment, The success, The outrage, The glory and the heartbeat.
I never even had the privilege of watching him play in the flesh, as many others we all have that one story that sticks with us, that won’t leave, he gave us all a moment of his time. Like everyone who met him, he seemed to for that singular moment consider you the dearest person in the world. His friend, His Amigo, His guest in the company of God.
My recollection is vague, being around 10 years old and staying up late to watch the USA 94 World Cup unfold. Not such a glorious memory of this competition as we all know England failed to qualify.
None the less, there was football to be watched and I remember the game between Germany and Spain reaching half time, my weary eyes trying to stay awake and then suddenly the commentary team whisking us all away to the earlier Kick Off highlights between Argentina and Greece.
With eyes now widened, I watched on as the washed-out transmission images rained upon British Television sets. USA World Cup transmissions had a aura about them that my 10 year old brain had never seen, from lands I’d only ever seen in Hollywood blockbusters or new reports, suddenly emerging into my mind was the Argentinian stars that I’d watched playing in serie A on Sunday afternoons via Channel 4.
The Royal blue hue of Argentina’s kit against the sun-bleached pitch at the Foxboro Stadium as Gabriel Batistuta picked up the ball from just inside the Greek half and mazed and dazzled before sliding home a scuffed if not genius finish. The cartwheeling celebrations of any South American team was always such fun and excitement to watch, passion and glory.
Cue Batistuta once more, emphasizing exactly what he’d done his whole career in Serie A with one of his iconic and trademark thunderbolts.
There’s seriously no better word to describe this man’s power in front of goal from any range.
With all the mastery and goalscoring prowess of Batistuta, he set me nicely for what would be my first and most impressionable memory of the man we all know to be…”Maradona”.
Tiki-taka was not a known element of football yet, but if you want a great example of slick, precise one touch football just outside the opposition penalty box look no further than Argentina’s third goal against Greece.
Effortlessly and like a moment from your favourite poets prose the ball lands at Maradona’s sweet, sweet left foot. It remains there as if the ball had suddenly taken on a bag full of hard cement.
Is this the moment?
The moment we had all been told about and read and glimpsed from old footage. Our Fathers and Grandfathers have all mentioned him at some stage or other and at this very moment in time I was about to witness the Genius at work.
I sat up, eyes now widened, and breath held still momentarily.
The ball trapped, he pushed it onto his trusty wand of a left foot and with that came the trademark stance, full weight of his body on the right and a clubbing, swinging, lunge of his muscular left leg.
The moment arrived, breath held, eyes widened.
The next moment can only be described as sheer exuberant World Cup Glory.
The net sprung back like it was on an elasticated chord, the goalkeepers despairing lunge for the ball played its part just like a ballerina dancing their final port-de-corps. Suddenly the U.S.A emerged into full zoom, Uncle Sam appeared in glaring stilts with all the stars and stripes, Hot Dogs, Corvettes, Apple Pies, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Bald Eagle for the final cherry on top of the Pancakes.
My USA 94’ World Cup summed up in the next 1 minute or so of pure footballing fantasy.
I watched as the majestic Argentine wheeled away in a mass of Royal Blue, followed in suit by the rest of the squad.
It appeared that this angel of world football had landed into my psyche.
He emerged onto my screen still in the throes of incandescent celebration, grasping the television camera in his sweaty palms, thrusting it up and down in a myriad of vim and displaying the face of man fanatically enchanted with the beautiful game. Maradona got it, he knew what it meant, the buzz, the emotion, the zest.
He was the spark, and he shined brightest.
Diego Armando Maradona.
30/10/1960 – 25/11/2020 Amen.
Written for Monde-Sportif by email@example.com