It is pretty evident for all to see that Diego Maradona’s presence at this FIFA World Cup has been a real breath of fresh air. The 49 year old had been in World Cup exile for sixteen years since his shameful eviction from the 1994 finals in the USA after failing a drugs test was truly harrowing viewing. A player of his magnitude exiting footballs gala of talent in such a way was hard to witness by those who have been captivated by his chemistry with a football at his feet.
El Diego is certainly regarded as one of the greatest player’s of all time if not the undisputed best. There is no doubt that the man from Lanus in Buenos Aires who lifted the ‘FIFA World Youth Championship’ back in 1979 has never looked back since that famous night in Tokyo. He has rubber stamped his name well and truly into the identity of the sport. We cannot imagine Diego Mardaona without football nor can we imagine football without him.
Yes, he has had his personal issues which have caused controversy whilst also putting his life in real jeopardy with a drastically bad lifestyle but how thankful are we that he has turned things around. He has his health back after battling his demons and is now making the most of a new lease of life to write some new chapters in his remarkable tale.
The Diego Maradona we see now is the voice of Argentina – the coach of Argentina – and may well be the saviour of Argentina once again as he steers his beloved country on a World Cup quest in South Africa. La Albiceleste are now just two games away from their first final in twenty years since that disappointing night in Rome where they were humbled by West Germany. Ironically it is the Germans who stand in Diego’s way of a place in the last four.
The Maradona we have seen during the competition is a marvellous sight. Here is a man who five years ago was fighting drug addictions which severely threatened his life. Five years later we now see this brash looking Argentine dressed to impress in his now infamous grey suit whilst sporting a casual beard seemingly kicking and heading every ball whilst on the touch line.
Why hadn’t he entered management sooner? He certainly looks every inch of an accustomed football manager. He struts along his dugout clasping his rosary beads with his arms folded soaking in the atmosphere that surrounds him.
Thousands of eyes are fixed not only on the field of play but also on the 5 ft 5 footballing legend barking orders to the new generation of South American football. His presence alone is enough to sell out stadiums all over the world. The man is undoubtedly a phenomenon in the sport that he loves so very much.
His exploits within the dugout as his passion and emotion oozes throughout his pores are more entertaining than some of the activities on the pitch. His eccentric nature has certainly lightened the tournament showing us a side of Maradona we haven’t seen since his glory days as a player. He clutches his rosary beads in his hands during every ninety minutes as ritual to help ease his anxiety. A man who has faith in the heavens above has certainly done exactly the same with his players. They absolutely adore him.
Not only are the Argentine players representing their country back in South America, they are now representing ‘Diego Armando Maradona’. They play for a man who has given so much to their country and have idolised as young boys growing up dreaming to be a carbon copy of the football magician. Whether it is during a light training session, a pre match meeting or after a game Maradona always embraces his players and staff as a show of solidarity and affection. As far as he is concerned, his players are his children and him being their father he must protect and encourage them as much as possible.
Argentina’s success thus far in the FIFA World Cup is certainly no coincidence. Yes they are blessed with bags of talent but their head coach has reinvigorated them as a team who would die for the famous blue and white striped jersey. They seem a collective unit of brothers who are all fighting as one, dreaming of lifting the eighteen carat gold prize at the end of the rainbow. It is a pleasure to see a team with such spirit yet blessed with so many attributes able to integrate the two and produce a display of top quality football.
The Argentines were being written off prior to the finals after a disjointed qualifying campaign with Maradona’s credentials as a coach being questioned. So far they have quashed all those question marks with relative ease. Germany now awaits Diego and his team in Cape Town in what should be a gourmet treat for the fans of technical football. No doubt the world is due to witness a show of superior football on the pitch along with Diego’s antics in the dugout impressing just as much.