Maradona, the colossus of football - GulfToday

Maradona, the colossus of football


Diego Maradona leaves behind irremovable footprints on the sporting history.

There is a saying, ‘Cometh the moment, cometh the man’. The moment was the 1986 Football World Cup Quarter-finals, when Maradona seized the moment and announced to the world that the era of the “Le Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Kid) has arrived –all hail the new King of Football !

The two goals that he seized upon and delivered, by hook or by crook, which have defined him ever since, were the goals he scored during the 1986 Quarter-finals.

One was the infamous goal during the 51st minute, when he glided alongside the solid England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and with a sleight of hand, as it were, flicked the ball into the net, past the longing arms of the goalkeeper. The crowds roared, the English players were aghast. This was the pre-technology days. In the heat of the moment, and giving the benefit of the doubt, the referee allowed the goal to stand.

What was Maradona’s comment? He said he had scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

If this was the most controversial goal, the next goal that he scored 4 minutes later sealed his reputation as the greatest footballer ever. He cruised ahead in full speed, dribbled past not one, or two, or three, or four, or five, but six England players and scored. This time there was no doubt whatsoever. The stadium roared into applause, as it sank into the collective psyche of the crowds that they were witness to what would be nominated later by the football pundits as the “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.

The 1986 World Cup was his to conquer. In the final, he engineered the 86th-minute winner against West Germany. He shone brightly as he scored twice, almost wantonly, in the semi-final against Belgium, beating four defenders for the second goal.

When fickle fame and fortune descend onto someone, people rejoice in the moment, and this they did with such adulation that was reserved only for the deities. Once in a television interview, in 2005, he was asked what kind of an epitaph he would like that described him, he mentioned that it would all be “Thanks to football, the sport that gives me the greatest joy, the greatest freedom. It is like touching the sky with your hands. Thanks to the ball.”

Yes, it was his mastery of the ball that raised him to the status of a deity worldwide, and the rapturous adulation of the fans that followed Maradona after the 1986 World Cup was simply unimaginable. It affected him immensely and it came as no surprise then as his defences cracked under pressure and he began his slow but sure decline into perdition, with his forays into drug addiction and imperious lifestyle of the rich and pampered.

His stellar record of achievements is enormous. But a few stand out for excellence in football on a global scale. Diego Maradona was placed second behind Pelé by World Soccer in the magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century. Along with Pelé, Maradona was selected one of the two joint winners of the “FIFA Player of the Century” award in 2000, Maradona and his compatriot Lionel Messi are the only players to win the Golden Ball at both the FIFA U-20 World Cup and FIFA World Cup.

He was born on October 30, 1960, and died on November 25, 2020 – leaving a legacy of a lifetime, and his greatness in football unmatched, which even Messi humbly acknowledges. Diego Armando Maradona strode like a colossus in the world of football.

The King of Football is dead. Long live the King.

Related articles