A young Maradona during a photoshoot at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1980.(Icon Sport via Getty Images)
A young Maradona during a photoshoot at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1980.(Icon Sport via Getty Images)

My mother thinks I am the best. And I was raised to always believe what my mother tells me: Maradona the boy genius

Even during a low point in his career at Barcelona, the way Maradona suddenly stopped and let an opponent slip, won applause from Real Madrid fans.
By Dhiman Sarkar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON NOV 27, 2020 09:55 PM IST

If Diego Maradona, who like many footballers was birthed in extreme poverty, tops the list of working-class heroes in the sport, it is because of a unique combination of chutzpah, chicanery, skill and self-destruction. He was part George Best — who, for all the wine and women, is mostly remembered as the Fifth Beatle who wove magic for Manchester United and Northern Ireland — and part Garrincha. Like Garrincha, who was about more wine and women than Best, Maradona was born poor, and like him again, he won a World Cup pretty much on his own.

An airport in Belfast is named after Best; Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha immortalises the hero of the 1958 and ’62 World Cups, and Napoli has moved to rename its football cathedral after “Santa Maradona”. But neither Best nor Garrincha would tell Pope John Paul II to sell the Vatican’s gold ceilings if, as the Pope claimed, children’s poverty moved him. Maradona did.

Neither Best nor Garrincha were as avowedly political. You can rebut Maradona’s political beliefs but what you can’t is question the conviction of the man who had the name of Fidel Castro tattooed on his left shin and Che Guevara on his right shoulder.

Argentinian President Juan Peron’s encouraging migration after World War 2 had the Maradonas, mother Dalma Salvadora first, followed by father Tota (Diego Maradona Sr), move to Buenos Aires from the river town of Esquina. Peron also believed in the power of sport to unite a country and invested in football. Said to be an “unspectacular” right-winger when he was happily high and had time off from being a porter in Esquina, Diego Sr’s team was a beneficiary.

In Esquina, home, according to Jimmy Burns’s book Hand of God, meant “cramped riverside huts moulded with clay and manure and covered in reeds”. In Villa Fiorito, a slum now part of Buenos Aires, it comprised “scrap metal, loose bricks and cardboard”. Not long after they moved, Peron was overthrown but Tota had found a job in a factory and Dalma as a housemaid so it was where Maradona grew up. Born on October 30, 1960, he died on Wednesday, aged 60.

The first son born after three sisters to a close-knit family — Maradona would spend $15,000 every month on phone calls to his mother from Italy — was given a football as a third birthday gift by his uncle Cirilo. He loved it, hugged it and went to sleep with it. The ball always hid the dirt, Maradona would later say.

The move to Argentinos Juniors at 10 was a natural progression. Maradona wasn’t fast; he was tiny, but when he moved, head bowed and chest thrust out, the ball often became an extension of his left foot. “No one can stop him when he decides to dribble upfield,” Eduardo Galeano writes in Football in Sun and Shadow, and that is only a mild exaggeration.

By 1976, Argentina was getting to know this. Ten days before turning 16, Maradona debuted for the Argentinos senior team. On November 14, he scored his first goal as a professional. On February 27, 1977, Maradona became a full international. Over 31 months later and still a teenager, he would star in Argentina, winning the world youth title. He had two ambitions, he said: to play, and to win the World Cup. He was giving early notice.

In 1977, Maradona made friend and fellow teen Jorge Cyterszpiler his manager. Cyterszpiler, who had studied economics, made Maradona very rich through endorsement deals. Like many footballers from Pele to Best and Ronaldinho, Maradona would, however, lose most of it soon.

Cyterszpiler got Barcelona to agree to an $8 million deal and buy Maradona, who had scored over 100 league goals before he was 22, from Boca Juniors. The deal almost didn’t go through because like Pele, who was declared an “official national treasure” in 1961 to prevent him from moving out of Brazil, the Argentine junta wanted to stop Maradona from leaving.

Hepatitis, a serious ankle injury and a brawl with the king of Spain in attendance made Maradona’s time at Barcelona a nightmare before resurrection at Napoli and the slide thereafter. But even during a low point in his career at Barcelona, the way Maradona suddenly stopped and let an opponent slip, won applause from Real Madrid fans.

It was “like a fire engine going to the wrong fire”. Those were the words used by football writer Geoffrey Green describing England captain Billy Wright’s run while trying to tackle Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas, but it could have described Maradona’s skill as well.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp walks dejected following the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Burnley in Liverpool, England, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Burnley won the match 0-1.(AP Photo/Jon Super, Pool)(AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp walks dejected following the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Burnley in Liverpool, England, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Burnley won the match 0-1.(AP Photo/Jon Super, Pool)(AP)

Carragher fears league title 'slipping away' from Liverpool

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 12:32 PM IST
The champions suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat by Burnley on Thursday, their first loss at Anfield in the league in almost four years.
Close
Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite, second left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during a Spanish Copa del Rey round of 32 soccer match between Cornella and FC Barcelona at the Nou Municipal stadium in Cornella,(AP)
Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite, second left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during a Spanish Copa del Rey round of 32 soccer match between Cornella and FC Barcelona at the Nou Municipal stadium in Cornella,(AP)

Barca edge past minnows Cornella despite missing two penalties

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 08:40 AM IST
Barcelona missed two penalties in normal time, with midfielder Miralem Pjanic being thwarted late in the first half by Cornella keeper Ramon Juan before Dembele hit straight at the feet of the 21-year-old in the 80th minute from yet another spot-kick.
Close
Burnley's Ashley Barnes, right, runs to celebrate his goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Burnley in Liverpool, England, (AP)
Burnley's Ashley Barnes, right, runs to celebrate his goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Burnley in Liverpool, England, (AP)

Liverpool's 68-match unbeaten EPL home run ended by Burnley

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 08:03 AM IST
  • Ashley Barnes scored from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute after the forward was brought down by goalkeeper Alisson Becker as Burnley became the first team to win in the league at Anfield since April 2017.
Close
India national coach Igor Stimac.(AIFF)
India national coach Igor Stimac.(AIFF)

There will be lots of changes to the national team: Igor Stimac

By Dhiman Sarkar, Bhargab Sarmah
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 07:59 AM IST
  • Before he starts work with a preparatory camp likely to be in Dubai from March, Stimac spoke about why he is happy with what he has seen in ISL this season and more in this exclusive interview.
Close
Ronaldo scored his 760th career goal in Juve’s 2-0 Italian Supercup win over Napoli. (Getty Images)
Ronaldo scored his 760th career goal in Juve’s 2-0 Italian Supercup win over Napoli. (Getty Images)

Ronaldo yet to break all-time scoring record, Czech FA claims

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:18 PM IST
  • The Czech Football Association has disputed claims that Cristiano Ronaldo broke the all-time goal-scoring record, insisting he needs another 62 to surpass Josef Bican’s tally.
Close
Sergio Aguero reacts. (Getty Images)
Sergio Aguero reacts. (Getty Images)

Man City striker Sergio Aguero tests positive for Covid-19

AP, Manchester, England
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:30 PM IST
  • Sergio Aguero had already been self-isolating after being identified as a close contact of someone infected.
Close
File photo of Mario Mandžukić(AP)
File photo of Mario Mandžukić(AP)

AC Milan means business with Mario Mandžukić signing

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 06:37 PM IST
Mario Mandžukić's signing this week is tantamount to a statement of title intentions. Hitherto having maintained that its goal was returning to the Champions League after a seven-year absence by securing only a top-four finish, Milan now appears firmly set on winning Serie A.
Close
Diogo Dalot of AC Milan in action. (Getty Images.)
Diogo Dalot of AC Milan in action. (Getty Images.)

'Demanding' Ibrahimovic boosts Dalot at Milan

AP, Madrid
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 06:21 PM IST
  • Dalot, 21, is at the heart of the defense of an AC Milan side which has been propelled to the top of the Italian league by the 39-year-old Ibrahimovic.
Close
Zinedine Zidane reacts after Real Madrid's 1-2 loss to Alcoyano. (Getty Images)
Zinedine Zidane reacts after Real Madrid's 1-2 loss to Alcoyano. (Getty Images)

Zidane under fire as Real Madrid loses again

AP, Madrid
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 06:15 PM IST
  • The embarrassing 2-1 loss in the round of 32 added to Madrid’s recent struggles and left Zidane under increased pressure.
Close
Football representational image(HT Image)
Football representational image(HT Image)

Football Delhi announces scholarship of U-16 players for college admission in US

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 03:04 PM IST
Each year, two talented footballers -- a junior boy and a girl -- will be identified based on their football and academic achievements for a scholarship.
Close
Chairman of Executive Board of FC Bayern M�nchen Karl-Heinz Rummenigge speaks during the "Germany's Athletes of the Year 2020" award ceremony in Baden-Baden on December 20, 2020. (Photo by Tom Weller / POOL / AFP)(AFP)
Chairman of Executive Board of FC Bayern M�nchen Karl-Heinz Rummenigge speaks during the "Germany's Athletes of the Year 2020" award ceremony in Baden-Baden on December 20, 2020. (Photo by Tom Weller / POOL / AFP)(AFP)

UEFA considering switch to single host for this summer's Euros: Rummenigge

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 02:59 PM IST
The 24-nation tournament, a major revenue generator for European football's governing body and the national federations, was postponed by 12 months due to the pandemic.
Close
File photo of Paul Pogba(REUTERS)
File photo of Paul Pogba(REUTERS)

Manchester United's Pogba one of the best when in form, says Ferdinand

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 02:24 PM IST
Pogba scored with a blistering left-foot shot as United defeated Fulham 2-1 on Wednesday to return to the top of the Premier League table. He also scored the winner against Burnley last week.
Close
Soccer Football - Bundesliga - FC Augsburg v Bayern Munich - WWK Arena, Augsburg, Germany - January 20, 2021 Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scores their first goal from the penalty spot Pool via REUTERS/Andreas Gebert DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video.(Pool via REUTERS)
Soccer Football - Bundesliga - FC Augsburg v Bayern Munich - WWK Arena, Augsburg, Germany - January 20, 2021 Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scores their first goal from the penalty spot Pool via REUTERS/Andreas Gebert DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video.(Pool via REUTERS)

Lewandowski's penalty keeps Bayern 4 points clear of Leipzig

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:53 AM IST
Lewandowski scored his 22nd goal of the season – a league record after 17 games – from the spot after a foul from Augsburg midfielder Rani Khedira on Lucas Hernández.
Close
Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring their first goal(Pool via REUTERS)
Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring their first goal(Pool via REUTERS)

City breaks down Villa's resistance to win 2-0 in EPL

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:37 AM IST
An end-to-end match in which City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injuries looked to be heading for a draw, despite the home team's dominance, when Silva received a pass from Rodri and smashed home a shot from the edge of the area in the 79th minute.
Close
Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring their second goal Pool via (Pool via REUTERS)
Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring their second goal Pool via (Pool via REUTERS)

In-form Pogba keeping Man United in front in EPL title race

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 07:38 AM IST
Pogba twisted and turned, maneuvering himself into a pocket of space before unleashing a powerful left-foot shot that curled into the far corner and secured another win for United.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP