The soccer world is mourning the loss today of Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona, who died of a heart attack today at the age of 60. Maradona had been in failing health for a number of years and just had surgery earlier this month to remove a blood clot from his brain. Maradona also had heart and respiratory problems and a very long history of drug and alcohol abuse, dating back to his time as a player in the 1980’s and 90’s.
Soccer fans worldwide are vividly remembering that player today as one of the true greats of all time.
Maradona is probably best remembered for leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title. Two goals stand out from that tournament. Both were scored by Maradona and both occurred in the quarterfinal match versus England, whose fans will never forget either one.
Maradona opened the scoring in that match with the famous “Hand of God” goal. The English side immediately cried foul after Maradona used his hand to volley the ball away from the keeper’s reach and into the net. At 5 foot 5, Maradona could do little else to get to that particular ball. But officials had no video assistance in those days and the goal would stand. Maradona said the goal was scored “a little with his head, and a little with the hand of God.”
His second goal in the match was equally memorable and often hailed as “The Goal of the Century.” Maradona dribbled past five defenders and the keeper for what would stand as the winning goal in a 2-1 victory, ushering England out of the tournament.
Maradona was always a controversial and outspoken figure in the game. Two years ago, he didn’t exactly endear himself to North American soccer fans, suggesting that Canada, America and Mexico don’t have enough success or passion for the game to deserve being the joint hosts of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“I don’t like it,” Maradona told the TeleSur television network. “Mexico doesn’t deserve it. The Mexicans come up against Brazil or Germany…and ‘boom,’ they’re out.” As for Canada and America? “There’s no passion,” Maradona complained. “The Canadians may be good skiers, and the Americans wanted to have four periods of 25 for the advertising!”
But most of the world’s soccer fans paid little attention to the controversies that dogged Maradona throughout his life. They loved him all the same and, in Argentina and Naples, he was almost a religious figure. “El Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Boy) led his home country into four World Cups, winning in ’86. In his national team career, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. He was equally dominant in league play, leading Napoli to the Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.
Maradona is often compared with fellow Argentine Leo Messi, one of the game’s true superstars today. Both men are well known for making their way around the pitch like water bugs, small and ultra-quick and, oh, so skilled with the ball, dancing past defenders, and often making it look easy. Of course, it was never easy, nor was it an easy day for Messi who passed his thoughts along on Instagram.
Translation: “A very sad day for all Argentines and for football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal. “I keep all the beautiful moments I lived with him and I wanted to take the opportunity to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP.”
The loss of a legend and a sad day for soccer.
By Steve Warne