The Cosmic Kite - Diego Maradona
Man, summer is the absolute shits without football. My Saturdays at 7am just don't carry the same excitement they do from September through May.
This morning, I had to get my fix in as I was going through the same kind of withdrawal as Mark Renton trying to kick heroin in Trainspotting. I decided to watch the '30 for 30 on Maradona 86'. I highly recommend it. The 30 for 30 series has the ability to embed the viewer into the film through supreme dramatization. Their football stories are more intriguing than any others I've seen including those produced by the BBC.
We all know the story of El Diego in 1986. Essentially a one man show that carried Argentina to World Cup glory on the sacred grass of the Azteca Stadium. I've watched highlights of Mexico 86' more times than I can count on both hands - it's the greatest competition ever to me. Maybe it was the first memory I have of my Dad and I huddling around our 13-channel Zenith television in the heart of Pine Bluff, Arkansas - our then home for two years. Ultimately though, I think it was the drama of that tournament and the genius of Maradona which captivated my mind and bulldozed my soul into football addiction.
What struck me while watching today was different than prior viewings - it was the ability of Maradona to hypnotize the football on such terrible playing surfaces. If you watch closely, the ball bounces almost every time it's played to him yet he settles it with such exquisiteness and distributes with sublime precision. He beats blocks of six players through turning on a dime and the ball never seems to be but a foot away from him. Half of the passes he made we in mid-air, off-balance. The six games he played were all an absolute masterclass. The goals spoken about most are obviously the two versus England (Hand of God and other), specifically the former. As the 'Hand of God' part of the first goal dominated the headlines, we fail to observe how he dances past three Englishman with such comfort before proceeding to 'outjump' Peter Shilton and Floyd Mayweather the football into the old onion bag. Despite the consummate domination on show versus the Three Lions, my favorite act of Diego in this tournament was his unbelievable short-hop pass to unlock the West German defence and allow his teammate, Jorge Burruchaga, to score the title-clinching goal. He was falling backwards to the ground as the ball bounced before him yet he stroked it with the deftness of a Ken Griffey Junior home-run.
We have the debate all the time: Maradona, Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. I can't fairly put forth my opinion as Pele was slightly before my time however, of the remaining three and after having watched Mexico 86' again, it's Maradona - hands down. They're all phenomenal talents but I just don't think the latter two could handle the physical abuse which Maradona took nor do I feel they could express their sublime skill on the playing surfaces Maradona had to endure.