Happy birthday Diego Maradona!

Altar to Maradona in Naples
Altar to Maradona in Naples

Diego Armando Maradona (picture ©dieghito), nicknamed El Pibe de Oro (the golden foot), today turns 50. He was born in Lanús, Argentina.

Maradona started his career as a professional football player in 1976 with Argentinos Juniors when he wasn’t even 16 and was soon being noted for his skills. The next year he made his debut with argentinian national team.

In 1981 Maradona moved to Boca Juniors but because of the team’s financial problems he stayed there for just one season then he moved to Spain, in Barcelona, where he spent two seasons with bad luck as he had health issues and a severe injury to his ankle caused by a devastating tackle by Athletic defender Goikoetxea.

In 1984 Maradona moved to Naples starting his career golden years as in Italy he won the national championship, the Italy Cup and the european UEFA Cup. In 1986 with Argentina he won the World Cup as a protagonist, for good and bad.

The beginning of the end arrived in 1990: in the World Cup played in Italy, Argentina went back to the final defeating the hosting team so before the final he and his teammates were booed. The final was won by Germany and Maradona complained against everything and everybody.

In 1991 Maradona was disqualified after being found positive for cocaine at an antidoping test.

In 1992 Maradona moved to Sevilla after the ban but he wasn’t “El Pibe de Oro” anymore. In 1993 he played for Newell’s Old Boys. In 1994 during the World Cup he was found positive for ephedrine and ejected from the competition. In 1995 he went back to Boca Juniors for the last two years of his career as a player.

Maradona had tried to be a manager for brief periods leading the Deportivo Mandiyú in 1994 and the Racing Club Avellaneda in 1995 but the real occasion arrived in 2008, when he became the Argentina national team manager, leading the team until the 2010 World Cup.

The cold chronicle doesn’t really say a lot about Maradona, a player incredibly spectacular on the pitch but very controversial outside. A perfect example of his contradictions is the match vs. England in 1986 World Cup, when he scored the infamous handball goal but also one of the most fantastic goals ever. After that match Maradona claimed it was a revenge for the war on the Falkland islands fought by the two countries a few years earlier, a war actually started by Argentina.

Maradona started using cocaine when he was playing for Barcelona and with the years that became a real addiction. In 2000 he risked his life for the first time when he was on vacation in Uruguay and after taking cocaine had a cardiovascular crisis, in 2004 because of the drug he had a heart attack when he was in Buenos Aires.

Maradona started having big weight problems too and between the cures to lose weight and the drug rehab he spent a long time in various hospitals.

Among Maradona contradictions there’s the fact that he earned a lot of money, so much that he still owes Italy many millions Euros in taxes he never paid, but during the last years he went hand in hand with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Maradona talked against social inequities but he refused to recognize his own children he had from various women he has relationships with.

Despite the many controversies that keep on starting around Maradona, in Argentina and in Naples he keeps on being considered and absolute idol and in 2010 the London newspaper Times picked him as number one among the greatest World Cup players ever.

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