Sean Connery, in his famous quote says, “The main concern for an actor or a writer is the removal of time”. I think that stands true for any acceptable form of genius.
Experiencing it makes you forget about the hours-minutes-seconds that our days are eternally divided into.
Last night, I was watching Maradona’s goal against England. The other one. And it struck me how, after all these years, it still manages to absorb the senses, all of them, you can almost smell and taste it.
Must be magic? Must be.
Argentina football legend Diego Maradona has died at age 60.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 25, 2020
We remember one of the greatest goals of all time, his immortal 11-second dash, in 1986. pic.twitter.com/HSv3ggcxgM
It is exactly 12:19:23 as I write this. It is 12:19:34 actually but I lost 11 seconds yesterday so I won’t count them.
I don’t know where the lost time goes, or lost people; but I am certain they go to the same place.
And as Diego makes his journey to that unknown world, we must thank him for the beauty he created on the field, for the excellence, and above all, for stopping the hands of clock.
RIP Maradona. Here is the extraordinary English transcript of the Argentinian commentary for *that goal* in 1986. pic.twitter.com/G0tfHVxoyK— Sam Wetherell (@samwetherell) November 25, 2020
Now, since we are on the topic of time, I should share that I often wonder how it would have been to live during his time. When he was just peaking and people could hardly believe what their eyes were seeing.
While we will never know for sure, we can get an idea from the media coverage of him from the past. For instance, this one, which calls him ‘the kid to topple Pele’. Maradona was 18 at the time and the question was – just how good is ‘Diego Maradona, the kid from South America?’.
The first time Diego Maradona was pictured in The Daily Mirror + a wide eyed commentary of the then 18-year-old by football writer Frank McGhee – June 4th 1979: pic.twitter.com/u4b22GfKAT— Michael Greenwood (@greenwood100) November 25, 2020
The human race found the answer to that question very soon, but it’s beyond interesting how people talked about him before the realisation that he is probably the best-ever struck them.
Here’s an Irish newspaper, calling him a ‘boy wonder’. I particularly like the line:
Maradona swept past bemused defenders as if the ball was tied by elastic to his boot.
And this column from The Guardian after Argentina’s 3-1 victory over Scotland in 1979. The writer, Patrick Barclay, emphasises:
He demands obedience.
There is a lot of stuff from 1979, which proves how important the year was, for Maradona. Also, it’s fascinating to note that the comparisons with Pele could be found in abundance, something that polarises football lovers to date.
This one is from 1981, when Sheffield United ‘could not find the cash’ to buy Maradona (he was valued £3 million later).
And this clipping, in Nepali, from 1994. The column apparently talks about his anger issues. I’ll have to take Twitter’s word on this.
My mom found this Nepali newspaper clipping of Maradona from 1994. She used it as a book cover 🥺 pic.twitter.com/MYzkWCm9au— s✨ (@sawadz_) November 26, 2020
As you can notice, he is holding the World Cup trophy in this one. Which brings us to arguably the most divisive media coverage of a sports event – the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and England.
Have a look at this piece, a day after the match, which quotes Maradona as saying that he was ‘merely doing his job’.
‘The magic man’.
‘Arm (maybe) in victory’.
‘Mexico will always remember him as a cheat’.
What Maradona did that day, and then what he said, sent minds in different directions. ‘A little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God’. What does that even mean? He did it? He didn’t do it?
More than 3 decades later, the controversy has pretty much cleared itself up, but at that time, the only thing to do was accept the extremes of Maradona and move on.
As put by NY Times:
No one plays the game – by rules or not – like the 5-foot-5 Argentine.
No one lived life – by rules or not – like the 5-foot-5 Argentine either. It was full of scandals and his lowest lows were comparable to his highest highs in terms of intensity.
‘Maradona tragedy’, they used to call it.
The tragedy just became increasingly tragic in later years. He was put on liquid diet for 3 months, had to undergo several surgeries and somehow, became a shadow of the player he once was.
His demise has jolted the world again and even the biggest atheists are remembering God today, as they continue to not believe in His existence.
That’s Maradona for you. An enigma, a mastermind, a cheat to some, and as I said in the beginning, a time stopper.