The Life and History of Latino Soccer Star Diego Maradona
The death of Argentinian fútbol icon Diego Maradona sent shock waves throughout latinoamérica in November 2020. This man was adored by fans worldwide for his unbelievable soccer skills. He is remembered as one of the best soccer players who ever lived.
Let’s start with his amazing soccer skills that you have to see to believe! Check out this video of Maradona’s Top 30 Crazy Skills Moves Ever, and you’ll see why he was one to watch. After viewing this, need I say more? Nevertheless, I will dive into some little-known facts and highly-acclaimed achievements of Diego Maradona’s life.
Soccer, Football, or Fútbol
Soccer is the most popular sport in Europe and Latin America. The sport has many different names: soccer (as Americans, some Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders call the sport), football (as Europeans call it) or fútbol (the Spanish term used in Latin America).
Soccer culture in Latin America is a big deal. So, when I say Diego Maradona was known for his excellent skills—he was known to soccer fans worldwide!
To learn more about the similarities between American football (NFL) and fútbol, check out the informative article, Fútbol vs. Football. Review your sports-related vocabulary so that the next time you’re watching fútbol with your compas you are sure not to miss out on the conversation!
Argentina’s Great Victory
Did you know that there was a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982? It was called the Falkland Islands War. The Falkland Islands are called Las Malvinas.
In summary, the islands lie off the coast of Argentina and they claimed ownership of them in the early 19th century. In 1833, Britain seized the islands and claimed it as their own.
Fast forward to 1982. Argentina got tired of negotiating for rights to the islands and decided to take them over by force. Argentine military junta Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the islands and took control from the British forces.
It looked promising for Argentina to take over, however lack of support to the military on the ground led Margaret Thatcher’s Britain to win the war over Las Malvinas.
How was Argentina going to recover from this loss?
Maradona’s Two Most Famous Goals of All Time
Four years later, Argentina and England found themselves on the same soccer field at the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. 25-year old Diego Maradona was prepared to lead the team toward victory.
Diego Maradona scored two of his most famous goals against England during this game!
Perhaps his most famous play of all time was dubbed the “hand of God goal” because Diego Maradona punched the soccer ball into the net after 51 minutes of playing.
Wait, he punched the soccer ball with his hand?? Yep. Isn’t that a foul? Should be. Yet, at the time, his fist was so close to his head that it was hard to tell what punched the ball, his head or his hand. And in the days before video assistant refereeing, the goal stood.
Then, four minutes later he dribbled past four English goalkeepers and scored the “Goal of the Century.” Argentina won against England 2-1. ¡Goooooooooool! This catapulted him to superstardom.
The win against England was bigger than the game on the field. Maradona wrote in his 2000 autobiography, Yo Soy El Diego, that “It was our way of recovering Las Malvinas,” and “it was like beating a country, not a football team.”
Diego Maradona and his team went on to qualify for the World Cup finals, and beat West Germany 3-2. Argentina won the World Cup.
Who Did Maradona Play For?
Diego Maradona played soccer from 1976 to 1997 for three countries: Argentina, Spain and Italy.
In Argentina, he played for multiple teams including Argentinos Juniors team, Boca Juniors team, Newell’s Old Boys club and the Argentine national team. In Spain, he played for Barcelona and Sevilla soccer clubs. In Italy, he played for the Napoli club.
Maradona began playing for Argentina from 1976 to 1981 before leaving to play for Spain. After three years, Barcelona sold him to the Napoli club. In Italy, Maradona led the team to win the Italian league championship in 1987—the first title for the team in 60 years!
Note that while Diego Maradona was playing for Spain and Italy, he still played on the Argentine national team. This is where he won the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
Fun Facts about Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona was also famous for amazing accomplishments outside of the 1986 World Cup. Below are a few of his impressive stats, and this article by ESPN.com provides even more!
- Maradona scored 311 goals in his career – Argentinos Juniors (116), Boca Juniors (28), Barcelona (38), Napoli (115), Sevilla FC (7), Newell’s Old Boys (0), and his second stint at Boca Juniors (7)
- Maradona made 91 appearances on the field and scored 34 goals playing in midfield for the Argentina national team. This makes him the fifth top goal scorer of all time!
- Napoli, the Italian team Maradona played for, retired his jersey #10 (the only number the club has ever retired)
- Maradona left Napoli as the club’s all-time highest goal scorer, with 115 goals, a mark that has since been passed by two players, Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens.
- Some defenders would do anything to stop Maradona on the field, and this resulted in him winning 152 fouls in World Cups. For context, the second-most fouls won by a single player is 64.
- Maradona holds the record for enduring the highest number of fouls during the 1986 World Cup with 53 times.
Maradona’s Retirement from Soccer
Maradona played soccer professionally for 21 years, starting in 1976 at age 16 and retiring in 1997 at age 38. His career was not without controversy. Unfortunately, during his soccer reign, he became involved with drugs. In 1991 he was caught up in his first scandal where he admitted to using cocaine. Unfortunately, this was a shadow over his career for some time. After playing two matches in the 1994 World Cup, he was sent home early after a positive drug test. He was hospitalized for heart concerns that were thought to be tied to cocaine. After years of suffering, he stopped taking drugs.
The media also criticized him for gaining weight. In 2005, he had gastric bypass surgery to reduce his weight. This was followed by more health problems. Yet, he defied odds and went on to become a coach of various teams until his final days.
Beginning in 2008, he coached Argentina’s national team and took them to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals. Afterwards he coached United Arab Emirates clubs Al Wasl (2011-2012) and Fujairah (2017-2018). He went on to coach Dorados in Mexico (2018-2019) and finally Gimnasia de La Plata, a first division club in Argentina from September 2019 until his death in November 2020.
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I began studying Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at university, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life. ¡Pura Vida!
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