Diego Maradona: A world football phenomenon lost

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Diego Maradona: A world football phenomenon lost
“Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo pass away”

This generation will feel like they’ve been punched in the gut when they read those news headlines, the same way my generation (and those older than me) has been reacting to the passing of one of the greatest and most intriguing figures in the world of football, at the age of 60.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Diego Maradona “made world football better.”

“There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago,” he said, “that I read that said: ‘No matter what you have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you do for our lives.’”

Everything we know about football was embodied in the soul of DM10. All the ups and downs of life, the highs and lows, all of it was compacted together in that 1.65-metre frame from Lanús, in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina.

There is probably nobody on the planet that has not heard of Diego Maradona in some capacity. Outside of football he battled with drugs and alcohol and those battles contributed to his passing at a relatively young age.

He changed football for Argentina, he changed football for Italy, he changed football in England forever! On the pitch, he was one of the greatest footballers of all time, with fluid moves and an aggressive playing style that nobody, I mean nobody, could stop!

The hand-of-God goal in the late ’80s is one of the most famous goals of all time and will never be forgotten by any football-loving Brit or Three Lions supporter. He played for seven clubs, managed eight clubs while representing the baby blue and white jersey of his county.

There is just too much to write about when talking about this legend, so I will leave you with this fun fact that connects him to the red maple leaf: Diego Maradona played football in Toronto! 

On Sept. 2, 1996, DM played a one-off match at Scarborough’s Birchmount Stadium. He was a guest player for the Toronto Italia, the semi-professional Canadian National Soccer League (CNSL) team that his brother Lalo played for at that time. The game attracted 6,000 rabid fans, in a stadium that had a capacity of 2,000.

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On the topic of Canada and footie, all three Canadian MLS clubs are not in the running for the MLS Cup. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are out and the players have all packed up and will be watching from the sidelines of this exceptionally odd 2020 MLS season. The final will be played on Dec. 12 (in which stadium remained unclear at press time).

A bright spot for Montreal’s club — who will be known as Montreal FC rather than the Montreal Impact as of next season — is they still have some very important football to play in December. They are still in the CONCACAF Champions League. Montreal plays the second leg of the home and away against the Honduran team Olimpia in the quarter finals. (The IMFC lost the first game 2-1.)

For film buffs: To get up to speed on Maradona, I recommend the 2019 film Diego Maradona by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia. Otherwise, there is more than enough content out on the world wide web to satisfy your curiosity.

This is my last article of 2020 and I am very much looking forward to continuing this adventure with you throughout the brighter and safer new year that’s just around the corner.

If you have any comments, positive or negative, or want to see anything different in this column in future, please let us know.

Happy Holidays. Let’s have the best 2021 possible. ■

“There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to his family members. One day, I hope, we will play football together in heaven.” —PELE

This column was originally published in the December issue of Cult MTL. Check out The 1st Half podcast about soccer and football culture in Montreal and beyond here.

For more Montreal soccer and other sports coverage, visit our Sports section.
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