Diego Maradona, an Argentinian hero and a global phenomenon

The unique gifts of football legend Diego Maradona throughout his career appeared to come from a higher force.

He once infamously referred to a “hand of God” and the unique football talents of Diego Armando Maradona, who died on Wednesday, appeared to come from a higher force.

Born in 1960 and raised in a shantytown on the outskirts of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, Maradona became a national hero and a global football superstar.

Just 1.65 metres tall, stocky and powerful, his dribbling skills and balance made him unstoppable. A prolific creator and scorer of magnificent goals, he is regarded as one of the best footballers – if not the best – ever.

He began playing for his country as a teenager and shone in 1986, when he led a simply good team to football greatness and a World Cup title.

It came after an unforgettable quarter-final against England, where Maradona punching the ball into the net for the first goal – what he was to call “the hand of God”.

Then, he scored a second goal of scarcely believable quality, when he dribbled past almost the whole England team before scoring, widely seen as the greatest individual goal in World Cup history.

In this file photo taken on July 3, 1990, Argentinian forward Diego Maradona, right, celebrates during the World Cup semifinal football match between Italy and Argentina in Naples [File: Daniel Garcia/AFP]
Maradona also thrived in club football, playing for Spanish giants Barcelona in the early 1980s, and then for Napoli in Italy, whom he took to its first-ever Italian titles and where he is still treated as a favourite son.

But off the field, there was turbulence for Maradona. He became addicted to cocaine and was banned from both club and international football for failed drug tests.

He was banned again from football worldwide for 15 months after testing positive for doping at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

In 2004, he spent time in intensive care after a heart attack and his weight fluctuated during his battles with alcohol and drug addiction.

He had two daughters through his marriage with Claudia Villafane that ended in divorce, and a son born outside of the marriage.

In retirement, he was still visible – politically, in entertainment, even on the football field in charity matches.

Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona waves to supporters prior to the World Cup quarter-final match between Argentina and Germany on July 3, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa [File: Javier Soriano/AP Photo]
In 2010, Maradona also managed his beloved Argentinian national team at the World Cup in South Africa.

Many doubted he could get the team to play as a coherent unit, but Maradona defied the critics until the team was defeated by Germany in the quarter-finals.

He dipped in and out of club management as well. Coaching in the United Arab Emirates was followed by a stint in 2018 taking over at Mexican second division club Dorados de Sinaloa.

It was not long before he returned to Argentina to lead Gimnasia y Esgrima in La Plata in 2019.

In true Maradona style, he stepped down after only two months in charge, only to rejoin again two days later.

His last public appearance was at a game on his 60th birthday on October 30, where he appeared frail and left at half time.

A few days later he was admitted to hospital, initially with anaemia and dehydration, but things quickly escalated and he needed surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain.

The operation went well but less than two weeks later, he died of a heart attack.

Whether he is the greatest ever footballer is open to debate, but his incredible talent and contribution to the game’s history make him a phenomenon.

Source: Al Jazeera

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