Diego Maradona (1960) Argentinean football player
Diego Armando Maradona was voted the Best Football (soccer to Americans) Player of the 1980's by the world's press. He received the prestigious FIFA award Best Football Player of the Century after a tumultuous affair with Pelé. He helped his country to two successive World Cup finals. Maradona played 79 times in the Argentine blue and white.
His professional career started off at Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors in his home country. He left South America for FC Barcelona in 1982. At that time he was the world's most expensive player. He had led the Argentine youth team to a World Cup in 1979.
The relatively small club team Napoli managed to sign Maradona as their new Number 10 in 1984. It was the best signing they ever did: he single-handedly led the Neapolitans to their first ever Italian League title. Forever on the football fans' retina will be Maradona's fabulous warming up exercises before each home match. He stayed in Naples until 1991, in the meantime winning two Italian championships, a Cup title and a UEFA Cup.
His fame rose highest in Mexico during the 1986 World Cup. Argentina won the tournament but Maradona's personal highlight was the game against England. El pibe de oro (the golden boy) or Pelusa (fluffy) scored twice and both goals were remarkable. The second ranks high in the best goal ever: Maradona started a solo on his own half and passed the entire England midfield and defence with superb, fluent passing skills and pace. This was just a few minutes after the first goal, which has been nicknamed The Hand of God. A pass was just too high for the little Argentinean to head the ball in, so he used his hand and scored. The referee failed to spot the unfair foul – afterwards Maradona remarked that was because it was God who made the goal, not him.
After failing a drug test in 1991, he was banned from the football fields and returned to Argentina. On a much lower level, he played for Sevilla, Newell's Old Boys and Boca Juniors, but again he made the headlines on a World Cup stage. In 1994, veteran Maradona was tested after the match against Nigeria (where he had proved the world he still was one of the best) and found to have used ephedrine. He finally retired from football in 1997 on his 37th birthday.
In 2000, he was on drug rehab in Cuba. Maradona once almost died of his cocaine habit. His biography Yo soy el Diego (I am Diego) saw the light just after he left Castro's homeland. Upon his return to his mother country, Maradona tried to earn his fame by coaching the modest Argentinean team CD Almagro. In 2004, he ended up in hospital for severe health problems again. Argentina President Nestor Kirchner said:
"I send him a big hug, I hope he recovers fast. Like all Argentines it causes me deep pain. We must stand by him. He has made all Argentines cry with joy. He is a great person."