Diego Forever! ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi
‘Charity Cup ’86! Maradona versus the rest of the world’. That was how the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) anchor announced the post-FIFA World Cup match featuring the victorious Argentina and selected players from other national teams that participated at the tournament.
Only a few would argue with the headline. The late Diego Maradona dominated the 1986 World Cup in Mexico the way no football player has ever dominated a tournament.
And perhaps never will, again. He was the proverbial tree that approximated to a forest. Ask England!
Aside Jorge Burruchaga, Daniel Passarella and Jorge Valdano, the players around him were not exceptional. Yet Maradona propelled his country to win the World Cup by his sheer genius as a footballer.
A year later, Maradona also took the Italian Serie A team, SSC Napoli, to beat giants like Juventus and AC Milan and win their first league title 61 years after the club was established.
Such was the jubilation in Naples after that famous feat in May 1987 that a fan reportedly inscribed on the wall of a local cemetery, apparently for the attention of the dead: ‘You don’t know what you’re missing!’
And following Maradona’s death yesterday, SSC Napoli tweeted: “The world awaits our words but there are no words to describe the pain we’re going through. Now is the time to grieve. Diego.” Almost every home in Naples was adorned with Maradona’s image last night.
Whatever may have been the contradictions in his personal life, in Diego Armando Maradona the world witnessed one of the finest and most gifted to have played the beautiful game.
His death is a sad loss not only for football but indeed the world of sports. May God comfort his family.
You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com.