By Pietro Arrigoni
Diego Armando Maradona passed away this morning, November 25th, after his continuous health issues, related to drug abuse, caused a heart attack. Despite the controversy around his lifestyle, El Pibe was an incredibly talented soccer player and an icon for entire communities and generations, which is why his legend will live on even after he has left.
Maradona was a generational talent as far as soccer goes. The Argentine, born and raised in the favelas of southern Buenos Aires in the ‘60, had to work and struggle to make it out, but his talent helped him get noticed by the Argentine U-20 national team.
After making a name for himself in the late 70’s, Catalonian giants Barcelona signed Maradona in ‘82, marking the beginning of his career in Europe. After performing greatly at Barcelona, Maradona moved to Napoli in ‘84.
Napoli was a city looking for redemptions, and Maradona became the leader of an incredible comeback to heights for the team and the city. Helped by his incredible talents, Napoli won 2 scudetti in 7 years, the first in 1987 and the second in 1990.
By the time the 1986 World Cup in Mexico came around, Maradona was widely perceived as the best player on earth at the time. The stage was set for El Pibe and all he had to do was just do what he does best, play soccer.
During the charge to the World Cup title by Argentina in ‘86, Maradona did justice to his country by eliminating England in the quarter finals. During the match, El Pibe scored perhaps the two most famous goals ever: his 60-meter solo run through the British defenders, named goal of the century, and the “hand of god” goal scored with his hand.
The game against England was much more than win or lose. The two nations had in fact been involved in the Falklands war four years earlier, and after Maradona single-handedly eliminated England, he became a national hero to the Argentine people, who felt their pride had been restored.
Maradona was soccer, but he was also bigger than soccer. His influence has affected so many communities by giving them something to believe in and someone in whom they could trust. He has inspired generation after generation of young footballers who grew up mesmerized by his divine left foot and his incredible skills, and left a name for himself in every greatest of all time debate.
The world, entirely, mourns the death of a legend of soccer and an icon of the people, while the cities with which he had been closest, pay great homage to a person who has engraved his spirit as part of the city and its people. His legend lives on.