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Maradona Died and I Don’t Know How to Feel

My inner footballer is grieving, but the non-football part doesn’t feel anything

I am not lying when I say that these lines cost me a lot. Diego Armando Maradona was, on the court, one of the greatest talents that ever lived. I am not talking about whether he was the best or not, that is a banality worthy of the one who seeks controversy, but about his talent. The things he did, and how he did them, transcended so much that they managed, for millions, to overshadow his great shadows.

I will make it quite clear that these lines are not to disrespect Maradona, nor his millions of admirers around the world, nor to absolve him of his guilt, they are rather to vent because I do not know how to feel and I believe that my feelings represent those of many people who lived and suffered socialism, but who feel soccer as something more than a sport, but who also have their countries unequivocally present.

Maradona hurt Venezuela and the countries that have been subdued by socialist tyrannies. He supported the tyrants Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro; and not only ideologically, because he also had business with the Chavista criminal conglomerate. That was a low blow that many of us simply cannot forgive and that, on the contrary, we will vigorously condemn. His tragic political positions and ideas were much more serious than his problems off the court, at least for me.

Maradona, muerte, Castro
Maradona with Fidel Castro in 2005 (AFP)

Great sportsmen and celebrities of history, absolute legends, fell into vices and not because of that their legacy was erased. The phrase spat out by Maradona, “The ball doesn’t stain”, made not only sense, but was also right.

What he did in Boca, Naples, Argentina has few similarities. Reproachable his actions outside, but also admirable his paintings on the green.

Diego was not a good example, in fact, it’s the opposite of that. But he was an inspiration to millions. Exemplary sportsmen like Lionel Messi -in my opinion the only one who can compete with Diego in the talent quota- grew up admiring Maradona. Other legends, like Pele, also made clear their predilection for Maradona’s talent. And this cannot be forgotten when talking about the Argentinean either.

His downfall was a thunderous one for all those who appreciated it. His addiction problem became his own undoing. But the main drawback for me, and for hundreds of thousands, were the wounds left by his political views and business.

Nothing defines Maradona better than the match against England in 1986. He was able to reach glory with mischief -and cheating, because the goal with his hand was clearly illegitimate- but also by doing something undeniable: the best goal of the 20th century and of the history of sport. Heaven and hell in a matter of minutes.

“The genius of world soccer starts from the right”, is perhaps the most exciting story of a World Cup. And it was narrated as Maradona carried it tied up while he scattered English rivals along the way. With the whole context of the Falklands War at its back. The moment, objectively speaking, is iconic.

If there is one thing that makes me sad – his mistakes make me angry – it is how his “friends” and representatives used the figure of Maradona as a comedy show in his last passages of life. That was no longer the controversial Argentine whom he criticized for his positions, whom he could hate and admire at the same time, but a kind of puppet whom, it seemed, they manipulated and used. An act of human indignity. And you know what the worst part is? That the people, thousands of his followers, applauded. Reprobable falls short.

Glory and misery in Maradona’s hands

One part of my being is grieving, another part feels nothing, no anger. Well, it’s not worth it. Maradona was an enormous player, whom I will admire on the court, but also a figure who had glory in his feet and misery in his hands. His legacy will also be related to evil people; people who made people suffer, people who repressed and killed; full of scandals of addiction and even mistreatment, it would be ungrateful and totally immoral to deny this facet of Maradona.

I have no problem in saying it: one part of my being will never forget the Argentinean’s excesses and will condemn them, the other part will only see the ball.

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