ARGENTINA: Soccer legend Diego Maradona passed away after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday. Maradona died at his home situated in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The Argentine football icon’s death comes as a surprise for millions of his fans as he was recently seen celebrating his 60th birthday. With his death, one of the greatest chapters in soccer history comes to an end. Let’s take a look back at the great player’s life and career.
Early life and his passion for football
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Villa Fiorito, a province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was the first son after four daughters. He also has two younger brothers. Maradona got his first football as a gift when he was just three years old. His keen interest in football grew soon and he became devoted to the game for the entire life.
When he was just ten years old, Maradona joined one of the biggest clubs in Argentina, Los Cebollitas. He showed his prodigious talent and led the club to an incredible 136-game unbeaten streak. Soon, he entered the senior team and made his professional debut at the age of 16.
Professional football career
Maradona was short in stature (approx 5 feet 5 inches) but it didn’t affect his game. He was a fearless midfielder in the Argentine team. Due to his amazing skills, Maradona soon became a cynosure in the eyes of Argentina’s football fans. His ability to create scoring chances for himself and others caught the eyes of many selectors. Just four months after his 16th birthday, Maradona made his debut with the national team. He became the youngest Argentine footballer ever to do so. At the age of 17, he narrowly missed the chance of inclusion in the World Cup team in 1978. However, in 1979, he led the national under-20 team to a Junior World Cup championship. In his international career, he played a total of 91 international games for Argentina and scored 34 goals.
Maradona’s association with European clubs
Before moving to Europe, Maradona joined Boca Juniors in 1981. Boca Juniors is an an Argentine sports club based in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires. After joining the club, he immediately helped them to win the championship. Later, he joined the European football club, FC Barcelona in 1982. The next year he helped the club to win the Spanish Cup in 1983. He then moved to the Italian football club SSC Napoli in 1984 and remained there up to 1991. The Napoli club was traditionally seen as a weak side. However, Maradona raised their standard and the club won the championship in 1987. He repeated the success in 1990.
His World Cup stats
In 1982, Maradona made his first appearance in the World Cup. But, his first major international exposure didn’t help him much as he wasn’t able to contribute to the team as he would have liked. Unfortunately, Brazil and Italy both defeated Argentina. Due to this, the Argentine team was thrown out of the World Cup. Maradona was the marked man for every opposite team he played against. A number of fouls against him were not surprising as he had already become the ‘star of football’.
Maradona was Argentina’s captain in the 1986 World Cup which was held in Mexico. In a 2-1 quarter-final victory over England, he scored two goals. One of his goals became memorable as well as controversial as he scored it with his hand (the referee thought that it was a header). This goal is still remembered as the ‘Hand of God‘ goal. Just four minutes later, Maradona scored ‘The Goal of the Century‘, which is often said to be the greatest individual goal of all time. In the final and the decisive game of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, his side defeated West Germany 3–2 in normal time.
In the 1990 World Cup, Maradona managed to take his team to the final. But, the Argentine team lost to West Germany. Later, in the 1994 World Cup, Maradona played only two matches before being suspended after failing a drug test.
Drug addiction issues
From the mid-1980s to 2004, Maradona had drug addiction problems. According to the reports, he was addicted to cocaine. His relationship with drugs became a problem for his game. In 1991, his stint with the Napoli club came to an end when he was arrested for cocaine possession. He was suspended for 15 months from playing football. His overweight figure and frequent drug abuse forced him to retire in 1997.
He was hospitalized for heart problems in 2000 and 2004. In 2005, he underwent gastric-bypass surgery. According to the internet poll conducted by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Maradona was named as the top player of the 20th century along with Pele.
Great Pele took to Twitter to pay Maradona a heartfelt tribute. In his tweet, he said, “One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky.”