Diego Armando Maradona: A meteoric rise and a destined fall

Football’s ‘Golden Boy’, Argentina’s ‘God’, Diego Armando Maradona became a household name on the planet, perhaps across the universe. A magician with the football, the greatest player of his generation, made every aspiring youngster fall in love with the game with his sublime skills and indomitable aura. The man, the myth, the legend, Maradona left Earth on November 25, 2020. It seemed like a tackle which El 10 couldn’t recover from, and a loss for the fanatics we couldn’t dream of.

Maradona, a cynosure, a problematic character, a passionate footballer, was known for his audacious disposition on and off the field. Be it dribbling past the 11 players or dribbling past the ‘white noise’ he in his own words was ‘the best’. His flaunting political leniency, flamboyant fashion statement made him distinguishable unlike any other celebrity or sports personality.

Hailing from Tigre, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona, son of Diego Maradona “Chitoro” and Dalma Salvadora Franco ‘Doña Tota’ struggled his way up the ladder while growing up. He made money however he could from opening taxi doors, selling scrap to collecting the foil wrapping from cigarette packets. He would play keepie-ups with an orange, a crumpled newspaper or a bundle of rags, while on his way to school.

At age eight, Maradona was first spotted by a talent scout in his neighbourhood club Estrella Roja. He became a staple of Los Cebollitas (The Little Onions), the junior team of Buenos Aires’s Argentinos Juniors. As a 12-year-old ball boy, he amused spectators by showing his wizardry with the ball during the halftime intermissions of first division games. He named Brazilian playmaker Rivelino and Manchester United winger George Best among his inspirations growing up.

Maradona made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors on October 20, 1976, and a decade later El Pibe de Oro became immortal. An outspoken dissenter of imperialism, a phenomenal footballing visionary, he went on to net the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England, anchoring La Albicelesteto to their second world cup triumph and becoming a messiah of Argentina itself.

Cosmico went on to play for Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys before returning to Argentina and relish his second stint with the Juniors. His audacious social life, struggles with doping surged while he was in Europe. His drug addiction, reckless lifestyle, involvement with Neapolitan Mafia, saw him banned for 15 months post his positive test for cocaine in 1991.

Since then, his love affair with football went spiralling down. Despite making a comeback in 1994 to play for Argentina, which was his last World Cup.

His battles with health were not unknown, and most recently he underwent surgery for subdural haematoma, but was discharged after the successful removal of a clot from his brain. He was obese from the end of his playing career until undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2005. In 2007, Maradona was readmitted to a hospital in Buenos Aires where he was treated for hepatitis and effects of alcohol abuse. Maradona underwent surgery in 2019 after a hernia caused internal bleeding in his stomach.