Brilliant. Cunning. Courageous. One-man-army. Phenomenon. One can fall short of superlatives if they have ever seen Diego play. Diego Armando Maradona Franco was a plain genius and is regarded as the greatest ever football player alongside Pele and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico is one of many testaments of it.
The former Napoli talisman wasn’t the favorite to lead his team to World Cup glory. Michel Platini, Zico, Gary Lineker, Socrates, Laudrup were in the lime light before the tournament started in Mexico in 1986. Little did they know, the curly-haired Argentine had the plan of etching his name in the history by taking home the country’s second Jules Rimet trophy.
1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico is known for the monumental controversy dissimilar to any of the 19 tournaments yet. In a span of four minutes, Maradona fashioned a colossal hoodwink and a tremendously spectacular goal. The ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Goal of the Century’, both scored in a matter of minutes, have been criticized and appreciated respectively in the past three decades.
At the post-match press conference of the quarter final in which England were eliminated, the 1986 Golden Ball winner claimed that their first goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. It wasn’t until January 2008, 22 years later, Maradona apologized for it. But it was too little, too late for the English fans who were swindled by Maradona’s antics. His life style and addiction to drugs didn’t help his image and he became one of the most controversial and hated footballers alive.
A line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones”. Although alive, Maradona has been criticized a lot for his life off the field and a few shenanigans on it. But let’s not forget, how immensely talented he was and how he inspired millions through it. Some devoted fans have even started church of Maradona. When the service starts, thousands of truthful devotees perform their unique edition of The Lord’s Prayer:
Who art on earth
Hallowed be thy left foot
Thy magic come,
Thy goals be remembered
Some Maradona facts from the 1986 FIFA World Cup:
• The 53-year-old scored 5 goals in the 13th World Cup including the two braces against England and Belgium in the quarter final and semi final respectively. His goal against England, where he dribbled past 5 players and the goal keeper, was voted the “Goal of the Century’ on the FIFA website in 2002.
• In Mexico 1986, he won the Golden Ball, the Silver Shoe and FIFA World Cup Most Assists (5). In addition to that he featured in World Cup All Star Team. 1986-87 was Maradona’s finest year as he also lead Napoli to their first ever Serie A title.
• The coach of Argentina, Carlos Bilardo, and Diego Maradona were criticized a lot before the tournament. In an interview Bilardo stated, “I remember that there were many articles criticizing Diego before the World Cup. Because I made him captain in place of Passarella and that he shouldn’t even be in the squad after what happened in Spain in ’82, let alone the starting side. That Maradona was a failure for the national team. They said to me, ‘Bochini is better than Maradona’, and I didn’t respond. Diego himself said to me, ‘we’re on our own.’ And look what happened then.”
The duo soon silenced all the critics.
• Maradona dominated the group stages and the knock out stages until the final against West Germany. Lothar Matthaeus tenaciously man marked the Argentinean skipper and kept him quiet for the most part of the game. But in the 83rd minute, a moment of genius broke the stalemate as he released a visionary pass for Burruchaga who raced onto the goal and slid the ball under the keeper Schumacher.
• In Argentina, the game against England was seen as revenge for the Falklands War which happened in 1982. In his autobiography, El Diego, Maradona admitted ‘hand of God’ goal was a revenge for the Argentine kids that were shot dead like birds during the war.
The ten commandments of Maradona’s church:
1. The ball is never soiled.
2. Love football above all else.
3. Declare unconditional love for Diego and the beauty of football.
4. Defend the Argentina shirt.
5. Spread the news of Diego’s miracles throughout the universe.
6. Honour the temples where he played and his sacred shirts.
7. Don’t proclaim Diego as a member of any single team.
8. Preach and spread the principles of the Church of Maradona.
9. Make Diego your middle name.
10. Name your first son Diego.