Diego Maradona is still in God’s hands
2017 marks an important anniversary of two of the most significant events in world religious history. The first of those is the coming of Diego Maradona.
Rising above even the genius he so often displayed on the field, the former Argentinian striker continues to inspire an undeniable fervor among fans and detractors alike.
However, during 1986 and 1987, Diego Maradona was everyone’s champion. In 1986 he won the World Cup as part of a stellar Argentina side. He followed that up by leading Napoli to a Scudetto for the first time ever in 1987. This year comes a new film celebrating the latter and a book from the man himself about the former.
The film—”Maradonapoli“—is a documentary released earlier this year about the impact that Maradona had in and on the city of Naples as he brought its first ever Italian football championship. The film is not available for any kind of viewing in the Americas yet. One could only imagine, however, that a South American debut is an eventuality.
It would be easy to understate the importance of that first-ever championship season for Naples. The acknowledged historical animosity between northern Italy and “the south” is the kind of sentiment which has its roots as far back as ancient Rome. For Neapolitan Italy to outdo Milan in any competitive arena remains a rare occurrence.
Serie A was one of the most celebrated of the European leagues at the time of Maradona’s arrival in Italy. The Azzurri had won the 1982 World Cup. A World Cup win at that time brought great glory to a nation’s domestic league. Combine all of that with the defiant character of the man himself and it’s easy to understand the genesis of a film like “Maradonapoli.”
Maradona and his people
Maradona proclaimed, “Naples is my home,” as he basked in the glory of the first of two consecutive Scudetto titles. The second of those was probably just icing on the cake. The mercurial Argentinian was likely bound for sainthood after the first. Of course, most recently the now much-traveled saint of Naples has spoken exactly the same words about UAE where presently he coaches in the professional ranks.
The overtones—religious and political—of Maradona’s lightning rod nature also hung heavily over his appearance at the 1986 World Cup. That is the main subject of his newly published autobiographical memoir.
The book—humbly titled, “Touched by God” and generously subtitled, “How We Won The Mexico ’86 World Cup”—does little to deflect the author’s iconic status.
The main thrust of the book’s retelling of the well-documented events of that summer concerns Argentina’s dramatic showdown with England in the quarterfinal round. The two nations had fought a war in the Falklands just four years previous, the superior range of England’s weapons having since called into question the nature of the conflict as “war.”
Maradona’s “hand of God” goal in that match is still a source of argument and controversy. On neither hand are there any definitive answers offered in this book. Still, it is worth reading if only to know the extent of the emotional power of the game across space and over time.
Maradona’s disputation of power
Maradona’s combative personality has not endeared him to everyone over the years. It is his style to lead with his chin. And that is exactly what is revered in him by those who do so. For example, he has previously and very publicly shared his fame with the likes of Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro. A list of polarizing public figures if ever there was one.
But that is again no doubt part of Maradona’s mythological aura. He regularly tweaks the rich and powerful as often as he succeeds as a performer in their spectacles. To this day he remains a hero to those who either in fact or merely as a matter of self-appointment can be considered “the people.”
The other important religious anniversary this summer? The act of defiance against the Catholic church 500 years ago which initiated the Protestant Reformation. That guy rubbed a lot of powerful people the wrong way too.
But he did not have much of a turn. Nor did he possess a powerful finish from his off-foot. No surprise then that no one’s made a movie about that.
There was a book though…