By Prudence Minayo
Diego Armando Maradona was an Argentine professional footballer and manager. He was considered one of the best players of the 20th century. He had amazing dribbling skills and would dribble past opponents in a run during a number of matches. He was given the nickname El Pibe de Oro, meaning the golden kid.
The footballer was famous for his cunning personality as was displayed during the 1986 world cup where he scored the goal with his hand but disguised it by following up with the head. Diego is renown not only as one of the best footballers in history but also considered one of the greatest dribblers. He drew a lot of admiration from his football skills but was also criticized by the media for his temper.
In 1999, World Soccer named him second in the magazine’s list of 100 Best Players of the 20th century. In 2000, he was the winner of FIFA Player of the century alongside Pele.
After retiring from football, he held various managerial roles and at one point hosted a highly rated talk variety show named La Noche del 20 (The night of the no.10).
On 25th November 2020, he died of heart failure.
Diego Maradona was born on 30th October 1960.
Diego was born at Policlinico Evita Hospital in Lanus, Buenos Aires to Diego Maradona and Dalma Salvadora. He was the fifth born in a family of four elder sisters and two younger brothers. The family was poor.
While playing in his neighbourhood, he was spotted by a talent scout. He became a staple of the junior team of Buenos Aires’ Argentinos Junior. The then twelve-year-old kept the spectators entertained by showing his amazing skills with the ball during the halftime intermissions of first division games.
Both his parents are dead, his mother died in 2011 and the father in 2015.
Diego married Claudia Villafane on 7th November 1984 in Buenos Aires. They had two daughters Dalma Nerea and Gianinna Dinorah. They divorced in 2004 and during the proceedings, he admitted to fathering Diego Sinagra. The two remained friends even after the divorce.
On October 1976, he played his first professional match for Argentinos Juniors. This was 10 days before his 16th birthday and he became the youngest player in history of Argentine Primera Division. He scored his first goal for the division, two weeks after turning 16, in a match against Marplatense.
Maradona played for Argentinos Juniors from 1976-1981 (five years). He scored 155 goals in 167 appearances. He then got offers from a number of teams but chose Boca Juniors, a club he had always wished to play for.
On 22nd February 1981, he made his debut under Boca Juniors. During the match, he scored 2 goals in the team’s 4-1 victory against Talleres De Cordoba. On 10th April he played his first Superclassico against River Plate. He scored one goal in Boca’s 3-0 win. The team had a successful season and won the league title.
On June 1982, Maradona transferred to Barcelona for what was then a world record fee of £5 million. In 1983, Barcelona won the Copa del rey, a national cup competition held by Spain every year.
On June 1983, Barcelona defeated Real Madrid in one of the world’s biggest club game, El Classico. Maradona scored during the match and became the first Barcelona player to be applauded by archrival Real Madrid fans. The manner in which he scored the goal led to a very big applause by fans in the stadium.
His time with Barcelona was marred with a number of difficulties. He got hepatitis which was followed by a career threatening illness.
At the end of the 1983-84 season, he was involved in a fight at the 1984 copa del rey final. He received a rough tackle which wounded his leg then he was taunted by xenophobic, racist insults due to his father’s Native American ancestry by Bilbao fans throughout the match. He was also provoked by Miguel Sola of Bilbao at full time as Barcelona lost 1-0. Finally, he snapped, stood aggressively and argued with Miguel. Miguel mimicked a gesture from the crowd towards Diego by using a xenophobic term. He then head-butted Miguel and injured two other players, knocking out one of them. Bilbao players came against him and the Barcelona players went to help. This resulted in a scuffle in which even the spectators started throwing things leading to a number of injuries. During his time with Barcelona, he scored 38 goals in 58 matches. He then transferred to Napoli for yet another world record fee of £6.9 million.
On 5th July 1984, he arrived in Naples and was received by 75,000 fans during his presentation.
During his time with Napoli, he reached he peak of his career and elevated the team to the most successful era in history and was quickly loved by the club’s fans. He inherited the captain’s armband from veteran Giuseppe Bruscolotti.
In the 1986-87, Napoli won their first ever Series A Italian Championship, led by Maradona.
They won their second league title in 1989-90, and finished runners up in the league twice, 1987-88 and 1988-89. During Maradona’s time with the team, Napoli received a number of honors including: Coppa Italia in 1987 (second place in 1989), the UEFA cup in 1989 and the Italian Supercup in 1990. He became the team’s top scorer in Series A in 1987-88, with 15 goals and was the all time leading goal scorer for Napoli, with 115 goals. His record was broken in 2017 by Marek Hamsik.
While he was very successful in the field, his personal life was a disaster. He was using cocaine, missing practices and there was a report about an illegitimate son. After failing a drug test, he served a 15-months ban and left Napoli in 1992. He signed in with Seville and stayed with the team for a year.
In 1993, he played for Newell’s Old Boys and returned to Boca Juniors in 1995 where he stayed for two years.
On November 2001, he was given a testimonial match played between an all-star world XI and the Argentina National team.
In 1982, he played his first world cup tournament in Spain. Argentina (Maradona’s team) was defeated by Brazil. He played a the five matches and scored two goals against Hungary. In the game with Brazil, his temper increased and he was sent off with 5 minutes remaining for a serious retaliatory foul against Batista.
In the 1986 world cup in Mexico, he led Argentina to victory, playing in all of Argentina games, scoring 5 goals and making five assists. Maradona was recognized as the dominant player during the tournament. During the quarter final, he scored two contrasting goals in his team’s 2-1 win against England. The first was considered by many a hand goal and he scored the second goal four minutes after the first. FIFA voted the goal as the greatest in the history of world cup. He then scored two more goals in the semi final match against Belgium. During the finals, he made the assist for the winning goal.
During the 1990 world cup in Italy, he captained his Argentina team. They made it to the final but lost to West Germany, 1-0.
At the 1994 world cup in the United States he only played two matches and scored one goal against Greece. He was then sent home after failing a drug test for ephedrine doping. This was the end of his international football career.