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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Diego Maradona: How fame can destroy a legend

By Milo Akerman
Staff Writer

On June 22, 1986, the world would witness what would be considered the best soccer history goal for generations. During the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, Diego Maradona evaded six English players, including the goalkeeper. He scored the final goal to an incredible uproar from the stadium, prompting the commentator to say, “Barrilete cosmico, de que planeta viniste?” (“Cosmic kite, what planet did you come from?”)

The play would later be crowned the “cosmic kite” and widely recognized as one of the best soccer plays in history. The story does not end there, though. Maradona also scored the first goal of the match—with his hand. This play, although usually illegal, was allowed by the referee—and later given the nickname “God’s Hand” by Argentinian soccer fans. Italian-Argentinian citizen Agostina Tovagliari compares him to another famous Argentinian soccer player, Leonel Messi, stating that “Messi did never even come close to Maradona.”

Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in the small village of Villa Fiorito where his poor parents raised him. His talent with soccer was first spotted when he was eight. At the time, Maradona played in a small club called “Las Cebollitas” (“The Little Onions”) and brought in spectators with his freestyle skills with the ball. Later on, he joined Argentinos Juniors and then Boca Juniors, a club amongst the most well-known by Argentines. His success was evident. As Agostina puts it, “Having such a hard upbringing with such little resources, I think it must have been a big shock […] becoming a worldwide sensation.”

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Maradona was incredibly grateful to his fans. Many have said that he never passed up a chance to take pictures and sign autographs, even if he was in a hurry. His goodwill was such that he went against his own soccer club’s president ruling and played in a Napolitan mud stadium against an admittedly modest club, all to raise funds for a kid’s urgent operation.

He would later play dozens of beneficent matches, earning him yet another nickname, “El Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Man). Maradona was also bought by Napoli, a small south Italian club that he brought to fame. He became well recognized all across Italy, even by people who did not know where Argentina was located, with Italian fans cheering on Maradona when he played against their team. His humble upbringing brought hope to those living in poverty, and his image became synonymous with the American dream of building fame and fortune from scratch.

Unfortunately, Maradona became unable to handle his success and turned to drugs. His performance started dramatically lowered as he struggled to keep playing against his own body. He had his first heart attack at 43, which would be the first of many more to come. Soccer did not help his condition whatsoever. Although a less rough sport than, say, boxing, soccer still comes with its injuries. Many soccer players have had to be carried out of games after suffering knee injuries, including Maradona himself.

Due to his frequent abuse of alcohol and drugs, Maradona’s health started to plummet, to the point where he had to have a gastric bypass to lower his weight and had to be taken to the hospital multiple times for overdoses and arterial hypertension.

Maradona was far from being able to play again, and his condition only worsened as the years went by. A few months before he died, it was rumoured that Maradona’s heart was functioning at a mere 30% efficiency. But Maradona was always aware of the adverse effects drugs were having on his body. According to Agostina, “Maradona had an anti-drug campaign where he said he would have become an even greater player had he avoided drugs.”

And then came his death. On November 25, 2020, Maradona suffered a cardiac arrest and died in his home at 60. Fans created tributes worldwide, and six different L.E.D screens broadcast his image for over 24 hours straight on the Argentinian obelisk.

The intriguing part, though, was not his death but the aftermath. Posts flooded social media, and though some criticized his drug habits, most praised his legendary status as a soccer player. His children then started to come out. As it turns out, Maradona had over ten children, most of which he never acknowledged. Later, Boca fans attacked a morgue worker that took a picture with his dead body.

This all happened in a week. Argentina was in a state of chaos surrounding Maradona. Social media sparked the debates of: ‘Should Maradona be remembered? Do his bad acts outweigh his soccer prowess?’

Two fans of the biggest Argentinian rival clubs hug each other in light of Maradona’s death (Photo by Juan Ignacio Roncoroni)

Most of these debates eventually settled down. The public settled on paying their respects, and most chose to remember Maradona by his legendary plays and incredible kindness. Boca juniors posted a picture of their entire stadium with the lights off, except for one seat: Maradona’s, quickly followed by Napoli renaming its entire stadium to “Diego Armando Maradona.” His death shall, either for good or bad, forever be remembered. Fly high, cosmic kite.

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Diego Maradona: How fame can destroy a legend