WHILE history will decide who can lay claim to the title of greatest footballer ever, for sure Diego Armando Maradona has led the pack so far, along with the indomitable Pelé. Maradona, who passed away on Wednesday, showed on the football field why the sport is labelled the Beautiful Game, with his magical legwork and stunning goals. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s he dominated the game. On the field, he made short work of defenders and scored goals that have gone down in the history books and are today studied by youngsters and pros alike. His only World Cup triumph came in 1986, when he helped his native Argentina defeat the West Germans in a memorable final in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. On the club level, he represented Boca Juniors in his home country, as well as Barcelona and Napoli in the European leagues. Maradona was a global football superstar, inspiring youngsters from Buenos Aires to Beijing to take up the sport.

From very humble origins Maradona rose to the pinnacle of world sport. However, his career was far from perfect and substance abuse dogged him even during his peak. He also suffered from poor health later in life. One can only imagine what feats he could have achieved had he managed to conquer his inner demons. Maradona was also a very political man, maintaining friendships with some of Latin America’s major leftist leaders, including the iconic Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The impact he has left on the world is deep, as tributes have poured in from across the globe. Argentina has declared three days of mourning while football greats Pelé, Gary Lineker and Lionel Messi, amongst others, have all expressed grief at Maradona’s death. Though not a very tall man, Maradona was a true giant on the field and indeed on the world stage, where he combined the personae of athlete, entertainer and public figure. Adios, Diego, and thanks for all the stunning football.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020

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