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Examining book of God

sports Updated: Jan 18, 2009 14:56 IST
Varun Gupta

To humanize someone who has a church that boasts of over 10,000 members from over 60 countries is not easy. It is not easy to get swayed by the whole Diego Armando Maradona pantomime and look beneath the legend, beyond the witticisms and the definite charm.

Yet, Jimmy Burns, a former investigative reporter sets out to do exactly that in his masterful book Hand of God as he knocks the Argentine off his divine perch and examines him as a unique social, political and religious phenomenon.

The result is an illuminating and intriguing book that cuts through the web of myth, mystery and full-blooded hypocrisy. This is thrill-a-minute, a giant among midgets, a masterpiece for the sheer strength of its prose, magnitude of information and its interpretation.

Maradona is a man not easily pinned down in one adjective. His feet often suggest they will do something only to do something else. Unfortunately, the man seems to do the same. This biography, unlike others, addresses this dichotomy between the man's genius and vulnerability.

This best-seller is the product of research in several countries on both sides of the Atlantic, and the infiltration of Maradona’s inner sanctum, an impossible task within itself. Colleagues, former teammates, managers, doctors, journalists, and officials have all given unprecedented access to Burns and narrated their riveting and compelling experiences and stories. It’s to Burns’s credit that he has still managed to paint a picture of such infinitesimal detail and of so many hues and colours with such simplicity yet authority.

The story is about the rise of a street urchin from the Beunos Aires suburb of Villa Fiorito who won one World Cup and was ousted from another after testing positive for cocaine. Who provoked fans into a mass hysteria of adulation, and enemies into sinister campaigns to destroy him.

Who made friends with the Mafia and betrayed his very own, besides loving far too many women.

He earned millions and challenged some of the more powerful vested interests in football. Burns sheds a light on why, just why, Maradona attacked everything in life with such mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence. Miss this at your own peril.