Diego Armando Maradona died on November 25, 2020. On that day, football lost one of its biggest icons. A character unlike any other and a hero to an entire generation. The whole football world will dearly miss Maradona. The Lanus-born Argentinian might have only been five-feet and five-inches tall but his aura was larger than life.
Maradona lived life to the fullest, it was no secret. He was 100% unapologetic about who he was. Maradona had his vices and was surrounded by controversy but that is what humanized him. His sheer ability and the magic he produced enamoured football fans worldwide. However, that’s not all that makes him the icon that he is. Maradona achieved god-like status in his home country and of course in his adopted city of Naples.
A Natural Underdog
It’s difficult to put into words how much Maradona means to Napoli. It’s too simple to say that he just won two Serie A titles with the Partenopei. Maradona signed for midtable Napoli, during a time where he was considered one of the best in the world. In a modern context, this is unfathomable. In comparison, imagine if Lionel Messi joined Sassuolo, this is inconceivable due to the hypercapitalist structure of the modern game.
Maradona, a man of the people, joined a Napoli team that was not only a midtable side but also heavily disrespected by their Northern counterparts. Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan were the big boys of Serie A. The big cities viewed a Southern team like Napoli as nothing more than low class and crime-ridden.
Serie A at the time was the top league in the world. In a historical context, many consider the Serie A of the mid-1980s to early 1990s to be the hardest domestic league ever. Napoli had to go toe to toe with Michel Platini’s Juventus, Karl-Heinze Rummenigge’s Inter, and the famous dominant Milan side managed by Arrigo Sacchi. That’s not even mentioning the supremely underrated Roma, Sampdoria, and Verona sides that were consistent European teams of that era.
Maradona: The People’s Champion
Maradona won two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia, a UEFA Cup, and an Italian Super Cup for a team that never saw any success in the top flight. Napoli has never won a scudetto since their talisman left the club. He’s a god in Naples to this day. In 2000, Napoli retired Maradona’s famous number 10 in honour of their hero. Napoli President, Aurelio de Laurentis revealed that Napoli’s San Paolo stadium will be renamed “Stadio Diego Armando Maradona,” hours after his passing.
Of course one can’t mention Maradona without discussing the 1986 World Cup. This was the tournament where Maradona etched his name into football history forever. Words won’t do him any justice, take advantage of the internet, and see how El Pibe de Oro lit up that tournament. It’s no surprise that Argentina declared a three-day mourning period in honour of Maradona.
To millions of people, Maradona is considered way more than just a successful talent, the Argentinian is an eccentric figure that wore his heart on his sleeve. Maradona always had a smile that would light up a stadium. He’s a player that probably could’ve been even better which is a testament to his remarkable natural talent. Maradona might have some regrets in his life but that’s what made him so human. There isn’t much of that in the world of football where players are almost machine-like. Football, at its essence, is about emotion and feeling and it’s safe to say nobody made people feel something quite like Don Diego.
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