Diego Armando Maradona is one of the most iconic sportsmen of all time. A man whose ability with a ball at his feet was truly unmatched by any of his peers. He was perceived as a god in his native Argentina, for whom he produced so many wonderful memories, whether he was wearing the gold and blue of Boca Juniors, or donning the blue and white stripes of his national team. Maradona could do it all, whether it was mesmerising dribbling, his unstoppable set-pieces or his eye for goal. His talent was so evident from an early age that he took on the nickname of “El Pibe de Oro” or “The Golden Boy”, which he carried throughout his historic career, more than living up to the tag bestowed upon him.
Unfortunately, I am one of many that didn’t get to witness his genius as it happened from his first-team debut for Argentinos Juniors in October 1976 and his final game for Boca Juniors in November 1997 against their bitter rivals River Plate. However, throughout my life, I’ve seen many of Maradona’s matches from his playing career, and there is only one way to describe him—magical. The things he did with the ball were almost unbelievable; he played as if he were ten steps ahead of everyone else on the pitch. As soon as the ball would land at his feet, he’d know exactly what he was going to do and how he was going to do it, and if the defenders managed to read which way he was going, they still couldn’t stop him. Once that ball was at his feet, he couldn’t be stopped. He had the kind of ability other footballers can only dream of having. It’s surprising he ever managed to lose the ball.
He wasn’t just a phenomenal footballer; he was also a tremendous leader who transformed the teams he played in. With his national team, his presence pushed the team to the next level, giving them that extra belief they needed to win the 1986 FIFA World Cup. With his beloved Napoli, where he spent his best years, he turned them from an average side in Italy to the strongest in the country, winning two league titles, a UEFA Cup and a Coppa Italia in his seven years in the South of Italy.
Maradona’s legacy in the game isn’t about how many trophies he won, or how many goals or assists he had, because the stats don’t matter with someone like Diego. He played the game how it was meant to be played: beautifully, and with a finesse and flair that is unmatched throughout the history of the game. He gave everyone who has ever watched him play joy with the ease with which he played the game.
Diego Maradona was one of the first athletes to transcend the sport in which he played. His popularity and his reputation ensure that he is known around the globe as one of the greatest footballers of all time. He showed the world who he was with his personality and style both on and off the pitch. Yes, he had his demons, just like many others, but he never allowed those demons to define him. His death will be felt by millions of people around the globe, but most of all in the cities of Buenos Aires and Naples, where he is and always will be adored. Diego Armando Maradona, the boy from Villa Florita, who became “El Pibe de Oro”, who went on to become the greatest to ever play the game, will forever be a legend, an icon, and to those in Naples and Argentina, he will always be a god.