Sports: Diego Maradona, One Of Soccer’s Greatest Players, Is Dead At 60

by Diego Santizo, Sports Editor

Very few people in any generation possess the power to make the world hold its breath. Maradona, who died last Wednesday at the age of 60, was one of them.

People gather to mourn the death of soccer legend Diego Maradona, outside the Diego Armando Maradona stadium, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 25, 2020. 

Diego Maradona, the Argentine who became a national hero as one of soccer’s greatest players, performing with a roguish cunning and extravagant control while pursuing a personal life rife with drug and alcohol abuse and health problems, died on Wednesday in Tigre, Argentina, in Buenos Aires Province. 

The news fell like a hammer blow to a nation beaten down by months of economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, but one where football is seen as a remedy for all ills.

His spokesman, Sebastián Sanchi, said the cause was a heart attack. Maradona had undergone brain surgery several weeks ago.

Devoted fans around the world paid tribute to soccer legend Diego Maradona last Wednesday from his home country of Argentina, to his adopted home in Italy, where he led football club Napoli to their first ever Italian league title in 1987.

In Naples, fans left flowers and candles outside his former team’s stadium, which the city’s mayor said should be renamed after Maradona.

And in Argentina, where the government has declared three days of mourning, fans gathered outside his childhood home near Buenos Aires to pay tribute.

Tributes have flooded in with former clubs and players past and present paying their respects as well.

Fellow Argentine Lionel Messi, whom many saw as the modern-day Maradona, said it was a “very sad day.”

“He leaves us but he doesn’t go anywhere because Diego is eternal. I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I wanted to send my condolences and best wishes to all of his friends and family,” Messi wrote on Instagram. 

Pelé, another legend of the game, tweeted: “I have lost a great friend and the world lost a legend. There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to his family members. One day, I hope, we will play football together in heaven.”

Meanwhile, Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo said goodbye to an “eternal genius.”

“One of the best ever. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon, but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten,” Ronaldo wrote on Twitter.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino called Maradona “simply immense” and said “he deserves our eternal gratitude.”

“Our silence, our tears, our pain is the only thing we are feeling deep inside us at this time,” he said.

Pope Francis has also commented on the matter as a Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis “looks back with affection to the occasions of encounter in recent years and remembers it in prayer, as he has done in recent days since he learned of his health conditions.”

Maradona broke into professional soccer with Boca Juniors but went on to play for leading European clubs such as Barcelona and Napoli.

He won two Serie A titles with the Italian side which tweeted “Forever. Goodbye Diego” along with a blue heart.

When Maradona joined Napoli, one newsreader remarked, “the poorest city in Italy buys the most expensive player in the world.”

He was ranked with Pelé among the best, and his ability to surprise and startle won over fans and even critics. But his excesses and addictions darkened his legacy.

One of the most gifted soccer players in history, Maradona’s pinnacle of glory came when he captained Argentina to win the World Cup in 1986 before plunging to misery when he was kicked out of the 1994 World Cup for doping.

Years of drug use, overeating and alcoholism truncated a stellar career and altered his appearance from the lithe athlete who could slalom effortlessly through teams to a bloated addict who nearly died of cocaine-induced heart failure in 2000.

But he reinvented himself in a stunning comeback in 2008 as coach of the Argentina team, persuading managers that with sheer charisma he could inspire the team to victory, despite a lack of coaching experience.

The death of Maradona has now triggered a criminal investigation, and his personal doctor, Leopoldo Luque, appears to be in the crosshairs of the probe.

Police in Argentina have searched the house and private clinic of Luque, just 4 days after Maradona’s death.

Around 60 officers conducted the raids at the two locations, according to local reports, and left with medical records. Prosecutors are looking into how Maradona was treated in his final days, and are investigating Luque for negligence that could result in possible manslaughter charges. Luque is cooperating with authorities, he said at an emotional press conference later Sunday.

“I know what I did. I know how I did it,” Luque said while choking back tears, adding that he was not Maradona’s chief physician but rather a member of a team of doctors that had been treating the icon since his Nov. 3 operation. “I am absolutely sure that I did the best for Diego, the best I could.”

Maradona became a godlike figure in his home country after leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, but the battles he faced with health and addiction problems would follow him everywhere after his career ended in 1997. At the time of his passing, he was the head coach of Argentine Primera Division club Gimnasia.

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