Maradona, Diego

Diego Armando Maradona, the captain of the victorious Argentinean soccer team in the 1986 World Cup was born on 30 October 1960 in Villa Fiorito, one the poorest slums of Buenos Aires. He started playing when he was only nine years old. The first club he played for was Cebollitas, the youth team of Argentinos Juniors. Because of his upcoming talent, he was nicknamed “El pibe de oro”, which literally means “Golden Boy”. He played through his 15th year for the youth team.

When he was sixteen he made his debut in professional football with Argentinos Juniors, and within months he already debuted in the national team of Argentina. These successes made him the youngest player ever in the national team.

In 1978 he was passed over for the World Cup in his own country. The team’s trainer considered him still too young to be part on such a big experience. He gained his first real popularity in 1979 when he became world champion with the national youth team. He was nominated player of the tournament, and was also named sportsman of the year in South-America. Following this he played for one of the most popular clubs in Argentina, i.e. Boca Juniors in 1981.

For the first time in 1982 he played on a World Cup for seniors in Spain, but it was not a successful tournament for Maradona. He only succeeded in scoring two goals, and in the most important matches he did not yet comply with the nickname “Golden Boy” as was expected of the idol. Argentina was already eliminated in the second round. Having played in Spain, he signed a contract with Barcelona in 1983, and they had to pay a record amount of 3,6 million euro for him. He only played 36 matches in the two seasons due to injuries and when he contracted hepatitis.

Following extended negotiations in 1984, Maradona exchanged Barcelona for Naples. Napoli then had to pay 6,7 million euro to Barcelona. For seven years he played for Napoli, and became 2 times national champion, once acquired the UEFA-cup, once the Italian cup and once the Supercoppa Italiana. Soccer fans adored him and he became the “football miracle”.

In the period in-between, he was the hero of Argentina’s triumph in Mexico 1986 World Cup as he led the national team to the final victory. He led his team to the World Cup title. Personally he scored 5 goals, gave 5 assists and was honoured to be called player of the tournament. Nobody doubted Maradona’s excellence as he shined like a real star. Maradona was now recognised as one of the greatest soccer players of all times.

Unfortunately, after failing a dope test in 1991 he was banned for 15 months from the soccer fields. After the suspension, he went to Spain to play for Sevilla where he remained only one year, and then back to Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys where he also stayed for a short time. Then, after a pair of coachings in Argentina, he came back to Boca Juniors.

Maradona made his comeback in the national team in 1993 where he wished to prove his skills once more at the World Cup in the United States of America. He played only the first two matches – against Greece where he scored once, and against Nigeria. Once again he was tested positive at a dope-control (he used ephedrine), and was shut out from the WC and again received a suspension of 15 months from the FIFA. Without their captain, the Argentinean team were soon defeated.

After his suspension he started playing for Boca Juniors again until 1997. For a third time things went wrong on 24th of August 1997. He was found positive for the use of drugs. On 30 October 1997, on his 37th birthday, he retired from football.

Twenty bright years of magic was ended. Maradona was no longer a football player. Most people still consider him as the best soccer player ever in the history of soccer. He captained the victorious Argentinean team in the 1986 World Cup, but aroused controversy with his apparent handball when he scored a goal in Argentina’s quarterfinal match against England. Maradona had 90 caps and scored 34 international goals. He was admitted to the Hall of Fame on 1 January 2000 with 36% of the votes.

The 43-year-old Maradona, who has been battling drug addiction for years, was taken up in hospital with breathing trouble on 18 April before tests also revealed infected lungs. He is not expected to leave the hospital before mid-May.