Thursday, August 25, 2005

Diego Armando Maradona

If Argentina can be symbolized by one person, then that figure has to be Diego Armando Maradona.

For those not too familiar with ‘El Diego’, here’s a brief recap (otherwise skip to the next section):

Diego is born in a Buenos Aires slum in 1960. At 3 he receives his first soccer ball. At 10 he begins flirting with fame. At 16 he is on the national soccer squad. At 18 he leads the national team to victory at the Football World Youth Championship.

At 21 he plays in his first World Cup; he is ejected for a violent retaliation. The team makes an early exit. He lands a $8 million contract with Barcelona. He discovers cocaine. He changes clubs and goes to Naples. He discovers more cocaine and the local mafia, the Camorra. He single handedly takes Naples to the top of Europe. He is deified in Naples.

At 25 he travels to his second World Cup. Single handedly carries Argentina to the cup. He is unanimously declared the best footballer in the world. Back in Naples he is busted for cocaine. Banned for 15 months.

At 29 he travels to his third World Cup. Single handedly carries an even weaker national side to the final. He plays with ankles swollen twice their size. I saw them in a magazine. This time they lose in the final. Diego cries. The nation cries. He is battered yet doesn’t quit.

At 33 he travels to a record tying fourth World Cup. I go to see him score his last goal in Foxborough, MA. Argentina beats Greece 4-0. A brilliant display. It turns out he cheats. This time he is taking a performance enhancing drug: ephedrine. Diego cries again. The nation cries again. The team is eliminated two games later.

In 1997 he retires from football. His career with cocaine carries on. In 2000, he suffers from an overdose induced heart attack. He turns to Fidel Castro’s health care system for help. He becomes quite obese during his therapy. Gastric bypass surgery in Colombia. At least 60 pounds are lost. He becomes Vice President of Boca Juniors Football Club. He starts his own talk show. He claims to have conquered his coke addiction. Argentina still loves him.

***********

Now that I have summarized Diego’s career, let me get to the point I was making. Argentina’s rollercoaster ups-and-downs, its ever diverging qualities and defects, are curiously symbolized by Maradona’s chaotic career:

Argentina’s desire to be admired by the planet, was momentarily fulfilled when Maradona took center stage of the soccer world and became the greatest, if not second greatest, footballer ever.


In 1986 Maradona single handedly won the World Cup.


Argentina’s do-or-die, no-holds-barred attitude was epitomized by Maradona’s determination and sacrifice on the field.


Top: Maradona garnered the utmost attention of the synchronized Belgian defenders.
Bottom: the karate kicking Koreans figured out the best way to stop Maradona.


Argentina
’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of the English in the battle over the Falkland’s was revenged by Maradona’s legendary performance at the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona is captured using what he calls the “Hand of God” to punch in the first goal against the English. His second goal, a stunning individual performance which is often recognized as the best goal of all time, sealed the victory. This past week Diego recognized that he punched the ball into the net and doesn’t regret it. He then referred to the English capturing Las Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and said: “el que roba a un ladrón, tiene 100 años de perdón.” Translation: he who robs a thief is pardoned for a 100 years.


Argentina’s bold, and often destructive, attempts to join the First World are comparable to Maradona’s narcissistic efforts to become a God among men.

The title of his autobiography, “I Am The Diego”, alludes to the unparalleled fame he has acquired. Maradona is so famous that he can refer to himself in the third person (Shucks! That means that my name is already taken). I found a great quote from a former teammate, and soccer great, Jorge Valdano: “Poor Diego. For so many years we have repeatedly told him, ‘You're a god’, ‘You're a star’ ... we forgot to tell him the most important thing: ‘You're a man’.”


Argentina’s indifference towards its impoverished and marginalized, makes it easy for Maradona to forget his humble origins.


Maradona (center) in his hometown of Villa Fiorita, a slum outside Buenos Aires, spending time with family shortly before moving to Europe and making millions.



Argentina
’s bumpy boom-and-bust cycle has been mirrored by Maradona’s rapid rise from poverty to extreme wealth and then an even faster fall into financial trouble.

Maradona with his 1996 Ferrari F355 Spider. He eventually had to sell it. It is now be auctioned on the internet. Go here to bid on it. The highest bid so far is $670,550.


Argentina takes pride in its beauty. Both on and off the field Maradona is a proud show off.

No comment.


Argentina is a society replete with corruption and cheating. Maradona a poster boy for devious behaviour.

In the 1994 World Cup my dad and I drove down to Foxborough, MA, to watch Maradona score his last national goal, in a 4-0 victory over Greece. The following game he was busted for using a performance enhancing drug: ephedrine. I actually thought there was something suspicious about his psychotic celebration.



Argentina
’s obsession with leisure and entertainment has been taken to danger levels by Maradona.

After almost 20 years of cocaine use, and several overdoses, Maradona had a near fatal heart attack. Enough was enough. He sought medical attention in Fidel Castro’s medical paradise. According to this Mexican newspaper, cocaine, sex and videotapes were readily available at the clinic.



Argentina
’s ever expanding national debt has been replicated by the equal or greater extension of Maradona’s waistline.

During his rehab the 1.68 metre (5’6”) Maradona inflated to 121 Kgs (266 pounds)!


Argentina’s propensity to surgically alter one’s body was embodied by Maradona’s easy way out of obesity.

A post-stomach stapling Maradona on his new talk show, “La noche del diez”. During the first episode he received is eternal rival, Pele. They chatted, reminisced, laughed, sang, headed a ball back and forth, and talked about Pele’s son’s drug problems. Pele told Maradona that he is a role model to his son for having conquered his addiction.



Argentina
’s complex love-hate relationship with politicians is exemplified by Maradona’s dubious choice of political friends.

Top: Maradona with new friend Hugo Chavez. Maradona later said: “The truth is I like women, but I fell in love with him (Chavez).”
Middle: Maradona showing his long time friend Castro, a tattoo of Fidel’s face on his leg.
Bottom: Maradona showing off his famous Che tattoo.

Maradona also spent time some time in Libya with Qadaffi and trained his son, the captain of the national soccer team, with his good friend Ben Johnson (yes, the scandal ridden, ex-fastest man in the world). A close source tells me Ben and Diego indulged in copious amounts of cocaine, while frequently complaining about the lack of prostitutes and alcohol in the Libya.



Argentina is proud of its twisted sense of humour, however when shots are taken at Maradona, reactions are quite mixed.

Top: Brazilian “Super Size Me” gag on Maradona’s cocaine diet.
Middle: A piggish Maradona using a straw to snort a cocaine laced field.

Bottom: Instead of playing soccer, “The Maradona’s Team” inhales the white powdered lines on the field.


Argentina
is often quick to forgive and forget its corrupt and criminal leaders. Maradona enjoys this impunity as much as anyone else.


During his farewell match at Boca Junior’s stadium, Maradona was thanked for everything he has done for the country. When he recently recovered from his addiction, he was given the Vice President title at the club. I am sometimes taken back by how much his ass is kissed, but then I remember that I am in the land of fútbol, and El Diego es Dios.


Argentina
is constantly searching for the next Maradona, could Messi be him?

Lionel Messi, 18, led Argentina’s under-20 team to the world championships. He is under contract with Barcelona FC through 2010, with a buyout fee of 150 million euros. Earlier this month, he debuted with the adult national team. He lasted less than two minutes as he got ejected for retaliating against a jersey hungry Hungarian.


Finally, in Argentina it doesn’t pay off to dislike Maradona. For this reason I have learnt to love Diego like everyone else. To prove it, I bought this T-shirt:

Che’s and El Diego’s mugs side-by-side. The caption reads: Fútbol Revolución.

29 Comments:

Blogger Vikrum said...

Diego,

I enjoyed the article, but wanted to tell you that none of the photos showed up. I hope you can fix that because you reference the photos in your article.

I recently read a fascinating article by VS Naipaul in which he uses three people to epitomize Argentina: Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Peron, and Eva Peron. He makes a convincing argument and characterizes Argentina well.

Not to be excessively critical of your article, but couldn't you argue that Juan Peron is the "one man" who symbolizes Argentina? His father was a poor farmer and his mother a peasant. He had Italian and Spanish ancestry. He worked with fascist Italy in the 1930s. He was a military man, and used strongarm tactics. He hated the Americans and especially the British (perhaps this foreshadowed the 1982 Falklands War). He encouraged unions as he pushed industrialization. He opened up Argentina for former Nazi war criminals (as Jews fleeing the same War entered the country). He legalized prostitution, promoted the tango, and married a nightclub singer. He fought with the church. And after he was buried his corpse was stolen!

Or couldn't we argue that Borges was "the" Argentine? What about Evita?

One more time. I enjoyed the article... but those three are definitely contenders for the "Argentina in a person" category.

Un abrazo mae,

Vikrum

2:45 PM  
Blogger Diego said...

Vikrum,

Hopefully the pictures are now up. Let me know. Half the fun in writing that article was deciding which pictures to use.

Agreed. Peron, Evita and Borges are contenders for the title of Argentina 'personified'.

However, I chose Maradona because he captures a modern, globalized Argentina that succeeds these other figures.

Had I taken more of a historical perspective, I would have certainly chosen Peron.

Moreover, as you can probably tell from the pictures, it wouldn't have been all that exciting to do anyone other than El Diego.

Gracias y un abrazo,

El Otro Diego

6:20 PM  
Blogger Vikrum said...

Diego,

The pictures still are not online. Please try to post them one more time.

Question: if you had to pick one man to personify Costa Rica, who would you pick?

8:30 AM  
Blogger Diego said...

Vikrum,

Hopefully the pics are finally up and running.

As for Costa Rica personified...

Tough call. By default, my vote would probably have to go to el gran JPV.

What do you think? Perhaps you could dedicate a post to this Central American visionary (you already have the photos).

Diego

4:08 PM  
Blogger oso said...

The pictures work great for me - and gave me a serious laugh. Vikrum's probably right - Borges, and Juan and Eva Peron are probably Argentina's greatest "representatives," but I think you make a great (and hilarious) case for how Maradona best reflects Argentine culture.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Diego said...

Oso,

Thanks for the comments and the shout-outs on Global Voices. Keep up the good work!

Diego

5:01 PM  
Blogger eduardo said...

For my only visit to a World Cup game in the USA 94, we drove down to Dallas to see Argentina vs. Bulgaria. Moments before it was announced that he was suspended for the rest of the tournament. I was such a futbol newbie at the time, and now things seem much more historical.

I think his struggles with drugs stem from finding that high that could compete with high stakes futbol.

5:35 PM  
Blogger cindylu said...

Found this via the Global Voice's blog. This was hilarious. I had no idea about the more recent aspects of Maradona's career or his political ties.

7:17 PM  
Blogger n. e. rodríguez said...

Diego, esta crónica está absolutamente estupenda. La disfruté de principio a fin. Ya mismo pongo tu blog entre los favoritos.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Sujatha said...

Hola, El Otro Diego,

Enjoyed reading this post. I thought Maradona had falled off the face of the earth after the "hand of God" episode. Apparently not! The talk show has resurrected more dead people than you can count on all fingers and toes!

Sujatha.

1:14 PM  
Blogger R.C.V said...

Diego,

Me entere de tu blog por medio del blog de Christian. Me alegro mucho y te comento que no sabía tus dotes de buen escritor, me parecen super interesante los artículos que has escrito. (Ni que hablar sobre el comentario sobre JPV!!!)

Ahora me encuentro en Holanda, estaba de vacaciones por tres meses pero me conseguí quedar por seis meses más trabajando para la Corte Penal Internacional. Estaré viviendo en La Haya, así que ya sabes, si estas por estos rumbos, avísame.

Besos,

Rose

7:46 PM  
Blogger hockey_internacional said...

muy muy bueno tu blog te felizito!!!(hockey_internacional)

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Blogger friends said...

FORZA NAPOLI!

2:58 PM  
Blogger Vale_Arg said...

Diego:
Qué suerte tenés de llamarte así. Qué hermoso nombre, como el mejor jugador de futbol de todos los tiempos. Ya no nos queda más nada por ver, no? Jaja.
Hay muchos jugadores extraordinarios, en cuanto a que son fabulosos, como Messi o Ronaldinho.
Pero "extra-ordinario" en cuanto a "fuera de lo normal", solo habrá uno. El 10.
Pero eso es sabido, futbolísticamente no es necesario que haga más comentarios.
Lo que sí me parece interesante contar... es mi punto de vista desde lo humano y social.
Es un fenómeno único en el mundo, que sólo un argentino puede comprender. Sólo queda contarlo y ojalá alguien más pueda comprenderlo como lo hacemos nosotros.
Uno de los días en que Diego estuvo internado en la clínica Suizo Argentina, en BsAs, lo que sentí fue tan fuerte que me es difícil explicarlo... pero es impresionante cómo uno puede llegar a amar tanto a una persona que ni siquiera sabe de nuestra existencia.
El sólo hecho de pensar en perderlo, me hizo ver que Diego es más que el mejor jugador de la historia, Diego es mi bandera, es celeste y blanco, es un luchador, él nos representa en el mundo, y no puede hacerme sentir mas orgullosa de lo que estoy. Podrá sonar exagerado, si se quiere, pero desde el día que ví, como niños de 4 a 10 años lloraban en la puerta de la clínica... como las abuelas se esforzaban porque no se les apague la vela bajo la lluvia, que habían prendido para rezarle a la Virgen por Él... corazones dibujados, banderas con su nombre, su foto empapelando la ciudad. Periodistas de todo el mundo corrieron a ver lo que pasaba con Diego.
A quien le importa la droga?
A quien le importa si se equivocó o si se sigue equivocando?
Es un hombre de carne y hueso con alma de héroe. Es un ganador, un guerrero.. en la cancha y en la vida.
El país entero rezó por él. Yo creo, quizá desde mi fervor, que el amor de su pueblo hizo que Diego se levantara de nuevo... y la ayuda de Dios que nos lo dejó entre nosotros, para que sigamos disfrutando de él, de su magia, de su carisma, y de su eterno ángel.
Diego, a vos te agradezco esta página y este espacio para escribir un poquito de todo lo que siento por este personaje tan nuestro y a El Diego, le agradezco existir y ser tan grande como es.
Disculpen si me pongo un poco cursi, pero
Gracias Dios, por ser argentino!!!
Valeria. Argentina y Fanfarrona. jajaja. Besos

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Blogger somnath said...

Diego,
this cool blog has really overwhelmed me and it seems that my search for a site that completely cultures on you has come to an end.Everything is quite fine of this-but I wishit could have been better if you would have saved a better photo of your farewell match.I really lack those few photos in my album.Anyway on personification of Argentina,I would like to say that your image is enough to attract common people like us from different corners of the world and make us fall in love with you and Argentina,may it not be quite literal according to some rulebook following good boy hipocrats.Diego,I can ascertain you that when you challenge some wrongs with your undaring spirit,our love must be carrying with you.Your struggle with your own hard fought life inspires me all along and this site has focused a close glimpse on it.Thank you for rewarding us such a site.
Estoy enamorado de tu,Diego.

SOMNATH

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