Maradona, who turns 60 on Friday, is widely considered one of the best players of all time, where his highs resulted in World Cup victories and a remarkable Serie A title for Napoli, but the colorful life he’s lived off the field has led to extreme lows, notably witht issues with addiction, substance abuse, illegitimate children, and feuds over money.
Born 1960 in the Villa Fiorito area of Buenos Aires, Maradona says football was his “salvation” which helped him to raise his family out of poverty before leaving for a world record transfer fee to Barcelona in 1982.
After being ravaged by injuries at the Catalan club, he was signed by Napoli, or, as one newsreader put it: “The poorest city in Italy buys the most expensive player in the world.”
During his time at Napoli, he almost singlehandedly won the club it’s first ever Serie A title, followed that up with its second a year later, won the UEFA Cup and won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986.
And while he is just one of many world class Argentine forwards — he shot to prominence after Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano and before Barcelona supremo Lionel Messi — it is Maradona’s chutzpah which separates him from the rest.
“If he enters a room, people stand in ceremony and tell the tale for years after of how they were in the room when he entered it. Power. Charm. Talent. And the ability to be seen to be frail, vulnerable and imperfect with it.”
Taking the world by storm
He was a household name before it, but the 1986 World Cup in Mexico was where Maradona shot to stardom.
A 26-year-old at the peak of his powers, Maradona scored twice en route to the quarterfinals. And it was in that iconic game against England where he took center stage.
In the 51st minute, he rose, out-jumping England’s legendary keeper Peter Shilton, with his arm stretched up, closed fist, and simply punched the ball into the net in what he called the “Hand of God” afterwards.
As Mora y Araujo wrote, “As shocking as it was unfair, the tension only rises as the fans inside the stadium and watching on TV wonder if the goal will stand.”
And if his first goal showed his impish, cheeky side, Maradona’s “Goal of the Century” that followed just four minutes later showed the brilliance of the man.
Receiving the ball on the halfway line, Maradona dribbled past seven English defenders before slotting past Shilton
“Each one ‘left for dead’ as the English commentator said at the time. Each one with a stunned look in their face, a mixture of horror that this was being done against them and admiration that they had such exclusive access to witness this marvel,” Mora y Araujo said.
Off the field
While he was playing the best football of his life in Mexico, Maradona’s personal life was not going so well.
His mistress Cristiana Sinagra was back in Italy, heavily pregnant with Diego Armando Maradona Sinagra. For years he refused to acknowledge paternity and did not meet his son until 2003.
Kapadia’s film shows occasions when Maradona came into contact with the Camorra — the Neapolitan mafia — with the documentary flashing up photographs of the footballer smiling alongside members of the crime syndicate.
As a Napoli player at the height of his addiction he would party from Sunday to Wednesday, Maradona describing how he would return home and lock himself in the bathroom to hide from his infant daughters.
Following a failed drug test in 1991 and a 15-month ban from football, his career on the pitch fizzled out. While he had stints in Spain and back in Argentina, he failed to reclaim that form which dazzled fans and opponents.
A nomadic managerial career has followed his playing career. It has taken him from the Argentina and Mexico to the United Arab Emirates, with each club laying out the red carpet — or the throne in Newell’s Old Boys’ case — for the footballing legend.