Who is Diego Maradona?
Italian soccer team Napoli mathematically clinched the Serie A title five games before the end of the season, ending a 33-year non-title drought since Diego Maradona last captained them to glory.
The Napoli fans stormed the pitch after the final whistle in the 1-1 draw with Udinese and have spent the days since walking up and down the street in their favorite kit, lighting fireworks and filling the city with songs of glory. .
But while the Napolitanos bask in the joy of modern triumph, they will never forget the legend of Maradona on and off the field, from cocaine parties with the mafia to becoming one of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport.
This is the story of Diego Maradona, the hero of Napoli and the icon of the game.
Maradona was born in the city of Dick Logan, Argentina, on October 30, 1960. He was born into a poor family in the suburbs of the capital, Bueno Aires, where he lived with his four sisters (all older) and two brothers (both younger) both parents.
Maradona’s parents gave him a soccer ball as a gift for his third birthday. The decision put him on a path committed to the game and ended up changing their lives forever.
At the age of eight, the Argentinian youth was spotted by the youth coach Francisco Cornejo while playing for his team Estrella Roja. Soon, he was referred to Argentinos Juniors, one of the biggest teams in South America.
Although he had the body of a child, he played like an adult.”
“When Diego came to Argentinos Juniors for trials, his talent really amazed me and I couldn’t believe he was only eight years old,” said Cornejo. In fact, we asked him for his ID so we could check it out, but he told us he didn’t have it. We were sure he was having us because, even though he has a kid’s body, he plays like an adult. When we discovered that he was telling us the truth, we decided to dedicate ourselves purely to him.”
It didn’t take long for Maradona, who had grown to just five feet five inches tall, to become successful at his new club. His silky feet even led to him going out to perform various skills as entertainment during match breaks.
In 1973 and 1974, the young prodigy led his team, now considered one of the all-time best youth teams, to 141-match undefeated streaks. He rose through the ranks so quickly that ten days before his sixteenth birthday, he was called up to the starting line-up for the first division team of Argentinos Juniors.
Climb up the ranks
Maradona’s debut became symbolic through the nutmeg of an opposing defender. It was seen as a portrayal of the talent that his young coach and many others saw in the nearly 16-year-old.
He spent five years with the club, scoring 116 goals in 166 appearances from the attacking midfield position. During this time, he also led his under-20 team to a World Cup victory over reigning champions Russia, scoring six goals in the competition.
He was then transferred to Boca Juniors, another influential Argentine team, where he scored another 28 times in 40 matches. He was only there during the 1981-82 seasons due to his poor relationship with the coach, but managed to make the most of his time and win the league title.
In the summer of 1982, Maradona accepted a record 5 million pound ($6.26 million) transfer to Spanish giants Barcelona. His time in Spain was full of unforgettable ups and downs on and off the field.
On the field, Maradona adapts to Barcelona’s attack. He won the King’s Cup, the Spanish League Cup and the Spanish Super Cup, justifying his high price. One of his most iconic moments in a Barcelona shirt came in El Clásico against rivals Real Madrid. The keeper went past the opposition and then sat a recovering defender before smashing the ball into the back of the net.
The goal was so great that the Real Madrid fans could do nothing but applaud. To this day, he is one of three Barcelona players who were applauded by Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabéu.
A decisive moment
Despite the success on the field, Maradona also suffered from ailments, including hepatitis, and an ankle fracture he suffered during a match against Athletic Bilbao.
Maradona’s final match for Barcelona came in 1984 against Bilbao. During the match, the same player who broke his ankle gave him a strong challenge and then taunted him with xenophobic remarks related to his father’s heritage.
Another knelt at his head and knocked him unconscious
Full-time, Maradona’s and Bilbao’s Miguel Sola faced each other. Sola, buoyed by his team’s 1-0 victory, again hurled xenophobic expressions and gestures at Maradona, but instead of keeping it as a war of words, Maradona punched Sola and knocked him to the ground. He elbowed another nearby Bilbao player and then hit another player in the head, knocking him unconscious.
The rest of the players from both sides rushed in and engaged in a full-blown brawl, all in front of Spanish King Juan Carlos and the 10,000 other fans who attended the match. More than half of Spain is also tuned in to the match.
By the time it was all said and done, there were 60 injuries on both teams’ personnel. An executive said there was no way for Maradona to return and sold him to Napoli for another world record fee of 6.9 million pounds ($7.51 million).
While many players never recovered from the controversy, the best years of Maradona’s career came in Italy, where the Napoli stadium is now named after him.
Diego Maradona: the hero of Napoli
Maradona was a pillar of hope for the people of Naples. Italian football was dominated by Juventus, Milan, Inter Milan and Roma, and the economic disparity between northern and southern Italy was vast. But despite that, there was faith that Maradona, seen as otherworldly, could lead them to glory.
“[No] “The mayor, houses, schools, buses, employment, sanitation, none of this matters because we have Maradona,” the newspaper said.
That newspaper couldn’t be more famous. Maradona was soon given the captain’s armband and in 1987 led Napoli to their first league title. The streets of Naples were filled with carnival-like festivities and choirs of triumphant songs around the clock.
The short Argentine was once again champion in 1990, when Napoli, after finishing second in each of the previous seasons, secured their second league title by beating Milan by two points.
But while all this was going on, Maradona was developing a solid nightlife. He frequently attended local mafia members’ private parties to obtain cocaine and stay out until sunrise. On nights he wasn’t at parties, he was at nightclubs with his entourage.
said Jimmy Burns, who made a documentary about Maradona’s life titled God’s hand. “He loved that kind of lifestyle, the parties that went on for so long. He’s charming, everyone wanted to be around him, he was a god on earth.”
Maradona was so energetic that he would often disappear in the days between matches, but somehow, he would be the best player on the field on match day.
Fall from glory
Around four in the morning in 1991, Maradona called a mafia member and asked to have liaison with a prostitute, as he often did during his time in Naples. While talking to the woman on the phone, she asked him to speak to her young son, a Napoli fan who was smitten with Maradona. He imposed an odd but apt acting for his status as a larger-than-life figure in the city.
Federal agents were listening in on the conversation through wiretaps
What Maradona didn’t know was that while he was fulfilling the young boy’s dreams – and also finding his muse in the night – federal agents were listening in on the conversation through wiretaps. They used that as evidence of cocaine possession and distribution because he used the drug as payment for prostitutes.
In April, he failed a test for a substance that found traces of cocaine in his system. He was banned from football for 15 months and fled to Argentina. He was put under constant surveillance and harassment and eventually thrown into prison back in his home country.
Maradona made 61 appearances for Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys, and Boca Juniors over the following years before stepping down in 1997. He broke into full-time management in 2008 and spent a few years in charge of the Argentina national team but didn’t find much success. Steady success.
He passed away in 2020 at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack. His body was battered from years of drug use, late nights, and extreme mental stress.
Diego Maradona is remembered as one of the greatest footballers of all time and best suited to Napoli.
It was immortalized in Italian history in 2020 by renaming what is now Diego Armando Maradona’s stadium, the home of Napoli.