For Diego Maradona (1960-2020)

For the lovers of the “beautiful game”, the passing of Diego Maradona cannot leave one indifferent. It is not however for his footballing skills alone that we celebrate him – his game was without equals -, but for his capacity to express the passion of a game that was still lived by many as a sport of the people, and not quite yet the total commodity-spectacle of today.

It was Maradona’s defiance, his rebelliousness, his lack of decorum, his playing for “underdogs”, along with his football, that is mourned with his death. And however contradictory his life’s deeds were – and whose are not, though in his case, magnified by fame and fortune -, it is Maradona the football artist-rebel who will be remembered.

Are words are not to be taken as idolatry, but as respect for a tradition of football rebels that has too often been passed over in silence. And ours is not a time for “gods”, new or old, but perhaps for “Homers”. Each may tell his own story, each may imagine their own Maradona, but with him, we remember an older meaning of sport.

We share Eduardo Galeano’s words on Maradona …

No consecrated footballer had ever denounced so unashamedly the masters of the business of football. It was the most famous and most popular sportsman of all time who broke spears in defense of the players who were not famous or popular. This generous and solidary idol had been able to score, in just five minutes, the two most contradictory goals in the entire history of football. His devotees revered him for both: not only was the artist’s goal, embroidered by the devilishness of his legs, worthy of admiration, but also, and perhaps more, the thief’s goal, which his hand stole. Diego Armando Maradona was worshiped not only for his prodigious juggling but also because he was a dirty, sinful god, the most human of gods. Anyone could recognise in him a walking synthesis of human weaknesses, or at least masculine: womaniser, greedy, drunkard, cheater, liar, boastful, irresponsible. But the gods do not retire, human though they are. He was never able to return to the anonymous multitude from where he came. Fame, which had saved him from misery, made him a prisoner.

Eduardo Galeano, El fútbol a sol y sombra


Siempre les cuento a mis hijas que yo crecí en un barrio privado… Je, privado de luz, privado de agua, privado de casi todo, Villa Fiorito. Para lo primero tuve a mi familia: a mis viejos que se rompieron el lomo para que no me faltara nada, y a mis hermanas, que me mimaron hasta malcriarme; para lo segundo, tuve siempre un potrero cerca y una pelota picando… Así lo viví en los potreros de Fiorito, así lo viví en la canchita de Argentinos, así lo viví en mi amada Bombonera, así lo viví en el césped lujoso de Wembley, así lo viví cuando llegué a la gloria en el Azteca y así lo sigo viviendo aunque sea en una cancha de showbol. A ver si se entiende: cambia el escenario, pero la esencia -para mí- es la misma, la del potrero. ¿O de dónde creen ustedes que yo saqué fuerzas para jugar en contra de Brasil, en el Mundial de Italia, con el tobillo hinchado como una sandía? En los Cebollitas, una vez, jugué todo vendado porque se me había estallado un sifón en las manos. Don Francis, el entrenados, no quería saber nada, era un riesgo…. Y yo lloré, pero no por el dolor, sino por no poder jugar. Lloré tanto que al final me dejaron; hice como cinco goles. ¿O de dónde se creen ustedes que yo saqué la habilidad para gambetearme a los ingleses? Eso fue nada al lado de las patadas que tenia que esquivar en algunos partidos de las canchitas de mi barrio. Porque, ojo, ¿eh?, que yo fui profesional desde chiquito: jugaba para el equipo que primero me venía a llamar y no les preguntaba la edad. De aquellos tiempos tengo un recuerdo feliz y una palabra para definirlos: lucha, lucha lucha… Ya lo escribí una vez y lo seguiré escribiendo cada vez que se me presenta una oportunidad, como esta, donde en un libro se muestra al potrero como origen de tantas cosas. Digo que lo que allí se aprende es lo que vale para siempre, pase lo que pase con esos…chicos del potrero. Escribí hace un tiempos, y vuelvo a escribir ahora: “Esto es lo que quiero trasmitir: a mí se me hizo la piel más dura por lo que viví en Fiorito, y después también; pero los sentimientos no cambiaron nunca, Ni cambiarán. Cuando digo lo que quiero transmitir estoy diciendo que a los ídolos, la gente les tiene en sus casas, bien cerca, puede tocarlos. No es que los ven por la tele o en las revistas; están ahí… (“Diego Armando Maradona”)


I always tell my daughters that I grew up in a private community… , ha, with privations of electricity, running water, almost everything, Villa Fiorito. For the first, I had my family: my old folks, who worked day and night so that I lacked for nothing, and my sisters, who were so fond of me that they spoiled me; for the second, I always had a potrero nearby and a bouncing ball… I experienced this feeling in the potreros in Villa Fiorito, in the small field of Argentinos, I felt the same in my so loved Bombonera, in the luxurious lawn of Wembley, when I reached glory in the Azteca and I still do it, even in a showball field. Let me put it like this: the setting changed, but the essence – to me – is the same, that of the potrero. Or how do you think I gathered the strength to play against Brazil, at the World Cup in Italy, with my ankle swollen like a watermelon? In Cebollitas, I once played all in bandages because a soda-siphon had blown up my hands. Don Francis, the coach, did not want to let me play, it was a risk… And I cried, not for the pain, but for not being able to play. I cried so much that in the end they let me play; I scored like five goals. Or where do you bet I had the ability to dribble the English? That was nothing compared to the kicks that I had to avoid in some matches in the small fields of my neighborhood. Because, beware, eh, I was a professional since I was a kid: I played for the team that called me first and I did not ask them their age. From those early days in the potrero I have happy remembrances and a word to define them: struggle, struggle, struggle… I once wrote it and will continue to do so every time I am given the chance, like this, where a book shows the potrero as the roots of so many things. What I say is: what you learn there is treasured forever whatever may happen to those… potrero boys. I wrote once and I do it again now: “This is what I want to put across to the people: my skin became thicker for what I lived in Fiorito and later too, but the feelings have never changed. And they won’t. When I say ‘what I want to put across’ I am saying that people have idols in their homes, pretty near them, they can touch them. They don’t watch them on the television or the magazines; they are there…”

Prólogo escrito por Diego Maradona para el libro “Potrero” / Prologue written by Diego Maradona for the photo book “Potrero” Fotos / Photos: Gustavo Di Mario Edición video / Video editing: Mariano Gerbino Music: Gustavo Santaolalla

Maradona “present” at the protests in Paris against the new proposed public security law this last Saturday

For obituaries to Diego Maradona in english, click here and here. At least two documentaries were dedicated to him, Maradona by Kusturica (2008) and Diego Maradona by Asif Kapadia.

Two recent essays narrate a “popular” history of football: The People’s Game: The History of Football Revisited by James Walvin and Une histoire populaire du football by Mickaël Correia. Any such history includes Maradona’s first football side, the Argentinos Juniors, founded by anarchists and socialists.

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