Diego Maradona as a street art painting in the streets of Buenos Aires.
Genius and madness: Diego Maradona is both.
“The Hand of God” celebrates its 60th birthday today. All alone.
Diego Maradona on a flag of the Napoli fans.
To understand Diego Maradona, one must go to Villa Fiorito, where he was born 60 years ago. Not much has changed there. Unpaved roads, garbage bags in front of brick houses. Nobody wears corona masks here. Ten masks cost more than a kilo of beef.
The drive from Buenos Aires airport would take 20 minutes. But the taxi driver refuses. “Too criminal, too dangerous, lots of potholes.”
When the stray dogs drink from the small stream that flows through Villa Fiorito, they vomit the streets afterwards. So this is where Diego Armando Maradona grew up.
«Only God is greater than Maradona»
His parents’ house is now a museum. Apart from two dozen photos of Diego there is nothing to see. No cups, no medals. “They would only be stolen,” says Tito Campos, Diego’s childhood friend, who still lives in Villa Fiorito.
The children play football in the dusty place next door. They wear Messi and Ronaldo shirts. They only know Maradona from hearsay. “Forget Messi,” says Tito. «Diego is the greatest of all time. Only God is greater than Maradona. ” He has never seen Diego since he moved to the capital at the age of 15 and signed his first professional contract with Argentinos Juniors.
Kung-Fu-Diego got hepatitis
In 1981 Maradona moved to Boca Juniors. The following summer he should have become the superstar of the World Cup in Spain. But in the second round Argentina lost to Italy and then to Brazil. In the South American classic, Diego saw red after a desert kung fu insert.
His move to Barcelona after the World Cup was also bad from the start. Hepatitis put him out of action for three months.
60 injured after a mass brawl
Then, in the 1983/84 season, Andoni Goikoetxea (nickname: “the butcher”) of Athletic Bilbao gained dubious fame after breaking Maradona’s left ankle. Maradona was out again for months.
When Diego had just got fit for the second leg against Athletic, he initiated a mass brawl after the final whistle that had never before been seen in Spanish football. Players, supervisors and officials attacked each other. In the end, 60 people were injured.
Maradona was banned for three months and fled to Naples.
Napoli goes crazy
When Maradona was driven in the back seat of a VW Golf through the narrow streets of Naples to the San Paolo stadium on July 5, 1984, the city was turned upside down.
80,000 watch as Diego juggles the ball a few times.
Maradona wins two championships with Napoli. In 1986 he became world champion with Argentina. His two goals against England in the quarter-finals, one with his left hand and the other after a solo run that many say was the best goal ever to be scored in a final, are football history.
Prostitutes, cocaine and the mafia
Maradona is at the height of his work. At that time he probably could have walked over the water with the ball on his foot. But the reputation grows bigger than the man. Maradona celebrates wild coke parties with prostitutes and champagne from Monday to Thursday, and he often only appears in football clothes for the final training session. He surrounds himself with mafiosi, wears a fur coat and a different Rolex every day.
«Damn sons of bitches» at the World Cup final
That works as long as Napoli wins at the weekend. And until he throws the Italians out of the tournament at their home World Cup in 1990, of all places, in the Naples stadium.
In the final against Germany, Maradona and his Argentinians have the whole stadium against them. «Damn sons of bitches», says Diego to the man next to him when the Argentines stand up before kick-off for the anthem, which is mercilessly whistled down by 74,000 people.
The decline of God
In March 1991, Diego tested positive for cocaine for the first time after a game against Bari. 15 months ban. The beginning of the end. When he made his comeback in Seville in 1992, Diego only made an impression on two patrolmen when he drove his Porsche across the intersection when he was red and insulted the officers in the worst possible way. Before the World Cup finals in 1994, after Argentina lost 5-0 at home to Colombia, then Argentine President Carlos Menem made a personal effort to bring Diego back to the national team.
In the training camp before the World Cup, Maradona shoots journalists with an air rifle. At the tournament in the USA the next positive doping result, whereupon Diego tearfully announced that his legs had been “cut off”.
He returns to the field one more time. For Boca Juniors, his heart club. The most spectacular picture from this time shows him kissing his teammate Claudio Caniggia on the mouth after scoring a goal.
Suddenly national coach
On his 37th birthday, he resigns for good. But it doesn’t get any quieter about him. Diego is completely out of control. In 2000, he nearly died after a cocaine overdose and three nights of partying.
Diego tries his hand at coaching – with limited success. At the 2010 World Cup, as coach of the Argentine national team, he didn’t know Thomas Müller the day before the quarter-final against Germany. Argentina goes down 0-4. Müller scores 1-0 in the 3rd minute.
Just another caricature of himself
After unsuccessful adventures as a coach in the United Arab Emirates, Diego ended up with the Mexican second division club Dorados de Sinaloa two years ago. Now you have to know that the most powerful drug cartel in the world is based there. Diego’s monthly salary is $ 50,000, plus he’s involved in the jersey sales of the Dorados, all of whom of course bear his name.
Previously, for example at the 2018 World Cup, a completely disoriented Diego was seen insulting Nigerians and South Koreans on the VIP balcony and nodding away his bloated face while he was asleep. Maradona is a caricature of himself, thick as a rain barrel, despite gastric band.
“You’re killing him!”
Then there was this interview from the car when Diego slumped to himself with the engine running and even Argentine reporters barely understood a word.
The last call for help came a year ago, after Maradona’s 59th birthday, from his daughter Giannina, when Diego was dancing in the living room while drunk and surrounded by false friends. “You’re killing him slowly and he doesn’t notice,” she wrote on Instagram.
Is “Policeman” Maradona dry?
Diego is now a coach at the Argentinian first division club Gimnasia de la Plata. Maradona leads the units mostly seated, even for short distances he has to take the golf kart.
But there are also better days in Diego Armando Maradona’s life. Last July, when his team started training again, Diego appeared in a black BMW in which he had installed a police siren and flashing lights. He drives across the practice area.
Most recently, people around him said that Diego had not been drinking alcohol for weeks. He is physically and mentally fresh.
Birthday in quarantine
For his 60th birthday on October 30th, Diego wanted two things: That he could spend it with all of his children – there are now at least eleven, from ten different women. Nothing will come of it. Diego is in quarantine because one of his bodyguards tested positive.
His second wish is unlikely to come true either: «I want to score another goal against England. This time with the right hand. “
* Martin Arn was a correspondent in Argentina for six years. His editor-in-chief at the time gave thanks to an exclusive interview with Maradona in 2009, which would have cost 35,000 dollars.
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