Diego against the world
A visual documentation of flying tackles and attempted missions to conquer the unstoppable Diego Maradona (1979-1994). But how many of them have actually succeeded ? Words by Dr. Subhashis Biswas.
He would dance with the devil when the devil looks into his eyes. He would drink with the butcher when the butcher has just finished mincing the meat. He would act on the stage as if the script is written for him, by him. He is Diego Armando Maradona.
A world where the football plays a significant role in gaining control over the accolade section of human mind, here is a magician that emerged from rugged streets of Buenos Aires and controlled the accolade section of human mind alright, all over the world. Some Claudio Gentile would sit on his drawing room sofa and drink finest Italian wine and remember each of 23 tackles he made to Diego in their match against Argentina in 1982 world cup, but when his glass of wine becomes empty, he would say “Saluda el Campion”.
Human mind is a strange thing, and more so if it is the mind of Diego Maradona. He is advancing with the ball; say from left side of the field around the centre line. He dodges past one, shields the vacant air with a sharp move and a with a little tap leaves behind two defenders to proceed towards the goal. Here come two flying legs from behind, one towards his groin, another towards his ankle. Mind of Diego Maradona senses it. He is used to this kind of flying legs from his childhood at Villa Fiorito. Still one leg catches his groin and thigh, Diego rolls down on the field, writhing in pain. Tough man he was, he slowly gets up and ready to take the free-kick.
Those two flying legs can be of Huh-Jung Moo, the South Korean player who played “Taekwondo” instead of football in the game against Argentina during 1986 Mexico World cup group rounds. In a desperate attempt to stop the best magician with the ball, the South Koreans led by Huh-Jung Moo, took tactics generally seen inside a boxing ring or wrestling match. It was an iconic attempt that got folk-lore like status in footballing literature, as how to stop Diego Maradona. More like as how to play kung-fu on football pitch.
Those two flying legs can be of Andoni Goikoetxea, the butcher of Bilbao. Goiko, as he was popularly known, was known for his malicious attitude. Barcelona was playing the Basque club on 24th September, 1983. Barcelona was winning 3-0; Diego received a pass around midfield and was looking to progress into Bilbao’s half. Goiko advanced up from his position in defence, with the sole intention of taking Diego down. His stud-up challenge landed in the middle of Diego’s calf with a wooden sound, broke his outer ankle, and ruptured all the ligaments connected to outer ankle. Goiko received only a yellow card.
The two flying legs that attacked Diego Armando Maradona over the years has changed name of its owner. The owners of those two legs are Terry Fenwick (England, World Cup Quarter final, 1986), Toninho Cerezo (Brazil, 2nd Round , 1982 World Cup), Luis Reyna (Peru, World Cup Qualifier, 1985), Daniel Pasarella (Riverplate, Superclassico, 1981), Nils Schmaeler, (Stuttgart, 1989 UEF Cup Final), Iosif Rotariu (Romania, Group stage, 1990 World Cup) and many more footballers of the world who played with the magician on the same field, and went into self-denial mode by failing to accept the fact that Diego Maradona is painting a picture on the field with the ball, and they cannot stop the artwork. In today’s world where referee’s are more protective of the ball players, and world in general is more punishable to offenders like Claudio Gentile or Andoni Goikoetxea, Diego Maradona would have been able to play a few more seasons, score a few more goals, win a few more accolades. As we know it, “God” relishes the feeling of existence, and not bothered by the mere mundane things that generally excites the likes of Huh-Jung Moo.
Here, we present a feature with some seen, unseen and very rare stills we collected chronologically which will portray the challenges faced by arguably best player in the world, during his playing days, when the world was so adamant to prove that we can destroy Diego Maradona. We are grateful to the vintage archives of El Gráfico, Clarin, Getty Image, BBC, NY Times and FIFA that helps to compile this personal favorite feature. Readers are encouraged to let us know if any other incident that you think deserves a place here.
The indomitable legend from Buenos Aires had numerous ups and down in his life, but every time he fought back, stood taller, bigger than anybody until the day he faced his biggest enemy – Diego himself. Argentina was playing like one of the 1994 World Cup’s stronger teams and Diego Maradona playing like his old superstar self and in path to another probable conquest, the team and the football world were shocked to learn that Maradona had tested positive for a banned drug ephedrine after Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Foxboro, Boston.
There was no coming back. Diego couldn’t win this battle anymore, neither his national team.