Argentine football legend Diego Maradonna has died of cardiac arrest at the age of 60. His lawyer has confirmed this.
The most famous Argentinian ever was recovering from a brain haemorrhage that struck him in the Buenos Aires area at the beginning of this month.
Fluffy, as his best-known nickname is, is according to many one of the best football players ever. His speed, dribbling skills and sense of panache – he didn’t shy away from turning around to dribble a defender a second time – mean his actions are still a sight to behold, even for those spoiled by the modern. football. Also off the field, the light-footed toddler was one of the most controversial figures to have ever given color to the sport.
High-profile street boy
He grew up as a street boy in a slum south of Buenos Aires, until he was discovered at the age of ten by a scout from the Argentinos Juniors. There he was already the trendsetter of the first team at the age of 15. After winning the hearts of the Argentines at the Boca Juniors, he achieved world fame when he was bought by FC Barcelona for 1 billion pesetas.
‘El Diez’ (Number 10) also played a leading role in one of our national hero stories: the World Cup in Mexico ’86. After an incredible campaign, our Red Devils will meet Argentina in the semi-finals during that World Cup. Maradona wipes the Belgian defense off the mat, to show the best goalkeeper in the world afterwards. The Red Devils leave the tournament with their heads held high, Maradonna will then bring the World Cup to Argentina.
The cheerful star also had a stubborn dark side. His million transfer from Barça to Napoli in 1984 raised many eyebrows. At that time it was a modest group that could hardly produce any letters of nobility. With Maradona, the Neapolitan club achieved successes that it could otherwise only dream of.
But Fluffy fell under the spell of the underworld and cocaine. His drug addiction got him suspended for 15 months, and would continue to plague him throughout his life.
The Golden Ball that Maradona won in ’86 as the best player of the world championship, is said to have been melted down into gold bars by the Neapolitan mafia. At least that is what a captured Mafia boss once told an Italian newspaper.
The miracle football player in any case built up a considerable amount of debt during his career. In his Neapolitan period, he owed at least 37 million euros to the Italian tax authorities. Maradona pointed the finger at someone at Napoli who gave him the wrong information about his taxes, but in the meantime the Argentinian had already left Italy. He decided to avoid Italy. The government then confiscated his Rolex earrings and watches, among other things.
‘Hand of god’
But let’s not forget that the man was capable of miracles. In the quarter finals of (again) Mexico ’86, an English defender hits the ball wrongly, causing the ball to be thrown high into his own penalty area. The English keeper thinks he can easily pick the ball out of the air, but Maradona has been followed well. Like a David against Goliath, he enters into an aerial duel with the tall keeper. Instead of a pendulum, however, he uses a concealed hand movement to tap the ball into the goal, and thus outwit the keeper. For decades he insisted that it was “the hand of God.” Only in 2006 he admits in an interview that it was handball.
The fall of his life was marked by health problems and media appearances that were often genius, but just as often cringe-worthy. A failed passage as Argentina coach is a blot on the blazon. He is hospitalized up to three times for heart problems, in 2004 he suffered a heart attack after an overdose of cocaine. After that he goes to rehab with his good friend Fidel Castro.
Perhaps the following fragment best summarizes the Maradonna phenomenon: During the heating of the UEFA Cup between Bayern Munich and Napoli, he entertains the stadium by holding the ball up for more than a minute with loose laces like a frisky football foal, to the rhythm of the song ‘Life is life’.
The chunk of granite on velvet feet went into cardiac arrest this morning in his own home in a suburb of Buenos Aires. Doctors tried to resuscitate him but all help came too late.
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