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Diego Maradona: Argentina’s Icon

Who would people usually mention when thinking of Argentina? Eva Peron? Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara? Lionel Messi? It all depends on what interests the person of course. But I’m sure that basically everyone would mention Diego Maradona. Even people who aren’t interested in football will know a bit about him and have an opinion about his life.

Being a big football fan, I find him one of the most interesting people in the world. In my opinion all great people in this world have some kind of downside, and clearly Diego Maradona has a couple of them. But I think that these do not overshadow his great football skills, the things he has said, and the great entertainment he gave and still is giving us. Before coming to Argentina it is essential to know something about Diego Maradona. It will definitely help you in communicating with locals which of course is a good way to practice your Spanish!

Early years

Diego Armando Maradona, born on 30th October 1960, was the first son in a family of three daughters. He was raised in a shantytown south of Buenos Aires. At the age of 12 he started playing at Argentinos Juniors. And here is the first fact which will help you in Buenos Aires: The rivalry in Buenos Aires between River Plate and Boca Juniors is massive, but the majority of the football fans will love Diego Maradona, regardless of the fact that Diego played for Boca Juniors for big part of his career.  So when having a football conversation with a River Plate fan don’t forget to mention that Diego Maradona is the greatest player ever played for Argentinos Juniors and just don’t mention Boca Juniors. This knowledge will help you to make friends very easily.

Europe

After playing 40 matches and scoring 28 goals for Boca Juniors in Argentina, Maradona played not so successfully (due to injures) for Barcelona. In 1984 Diego moved to the smaller club Napoli which he put on the football map forever after winning the championship twice, the cup once and the UEFA Cup. Winning the UEFA Cup in 1989 was a massive prize but the best part of this campaign in my opinion happened at the Semi Final in Berlin.  While all other players were doing their warming up Diego was juggling the ball with his shoelaces untied dancing to Opus – Life is Life. Watch the video and enjoy the calm and great way Maradona is preparing for the match.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzChH7MV60
“Warming up before Bayern – Napoli”

After his Napoli period Maradona played for a short while in Spain for Sevilla, before returning to Argentina to Newells Old Boys in 1993 and to Boca Juniors in 1995

International career

Maradona played in 4 World Cups for Argentina (‘82,’86,’90,’94) winning the World Cup in ’86 and finishing runner up in 1990. During the World Cup in Mexico ’86 Maradona became a legend. It wasn’t just for the 5 goals and 5 assists, the unanimous vote for the man of the tournament, or the amazing moves Maradona showed in this tournament. During the quarter-finals against England (and I suggest the British football fans to skip this part of the blog) Diego scored both goals in the 2-1 win. His second goal was voted “Goal of the century” in 2002. Diego put the ball in the net after dribbling past five English players and the goalkeeper.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk-kXwjASEE
“Goal of the century”

The first goal is probably the most famous goals in football history. Everybody probably has heard of “the hand of God” or “La mano de Dios”. And I don’t think I need to explain everybody that hitting the ball in the net with your hand is against the rules, and that telling the rest of the world that the hand you just used to score was the hand of God is (in my opinion) hilarious. But did you know that Maradona can actually sing, and has a very cool song about this goal. So listen and enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NI5oTTW_is
“Maradona singing La mano de Dios”

Downside

So where to start when describing the not so good sides of Maradona?
Drugs? Well yes, Diego was addicted to drugs from the mid-80’s till 2004. He has been suspended from playing football twice (’91 and ’94) but has been in rehab a couple of times and so should be clean now.
Overweight? True as well, in 2005 Maradona had to go to Cartagena de Indias clinic in Colombia to undergo a bypass surgery.
Shooting journalists with an airgun? Check! In 1994 Maradona injured four people while shooting an airgun at journalists.
Bad language during press conferences? He’s been there, done that! After qualifying for the 2010 world cup in South-Africa Maradona ‘thanked’ the people who didn’t believe in him in a very strange way. I am not going to quote the words he said, as I find it a bit inappropriate, so watch and enjoy one of the strangest press conferences I’ve ever seen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIbQbGq-jIE
“Press conference Diego Maradona”

And there are many more things that could be named as negative parts about Diego Maradona. But in my opinion (and I believe in yin-yang) there are more positive than negative things about Diego Maradona. He’s a low class hero giving a lot of people the enjoyment in life which they need. I would like to leave you with one last video. This video shows that Diego still just loves to play football. In this video Maradona is playing around with the ball, until a bodyguard walks past. And everybody who has ever played football knows that this is something amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqt_YLXaw8Y
“Diego Maradona still enjoying playing football”