‘And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years’.
If Lincoln could put a face to his famous words, there would be few more suitable than Diego Maradona. In 60 years, he packed more life in that five-feet-four-inch frame of his than us mere mortals could perhaps manage in multiple attempts.
Growing up with cricket dominating most headlines and conversation, footballing references weren’t common. But whenever the topic came up – mostly when the World Cup came around – it almost always circled back to Diego, who had just about hung up his boots by then.
I didn’t really get a chance to watch him play, except a few highlights repeated on loop, but that's the thing with legends – those who watch them, make sure you know. All the time.
Coincidentally, it was around the same time that Madonna had attained global superstardom, leading to some unfortunate interchanging of identities at the hands of overexcited 10-year-olds in the school bus.
His achievements on the pitch are well known to all, as are his antics off it. The 1986 WC is commonly referred to as The Maradona One and everyone knows why. His goal of the century and the Hand of God are part of footballing folklore – written about, watched, discussed and referenced so often that one often mistakenly believes that we were there when it happened.
Maradona was not a generational talent. In fact for many, he was, and still is the greatest of all time. He changed the game, raised the bar, and laid down a marker – one against which every player in the world would forever be measured.
The world united and coming together has been the theme of 2020, but last night was exceptional. The world joined hands to pay tribute to one of its special sons, and it was fascinating to see just how many of them had a personal relationship, story or journey linked to Diego.
He wasn’t perfect, far from it. But perhaps that’s what made him truly one of a kind. He lived life purely on his own terms, the only way he knew how.
He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone where they could go and would use a couple of fingers for good measure.
The world wasn’t enough for Diego, always looking for more. In some ways perhaps, he was ahead of his time. The world wasn’t ready for him, leading him to do most things on his own. In many ways, his passing only takes his legend to an even higher level – one we may need many more decades to truly unravel.
Professional sport is made of characters – some genius, some crazy. The showmen, the leaders, the cult heroes. And then there was Maradona – all that and so much more. The millennials would best describe him as being the OG, and for once, no one would disagree that there once was a boy called Diego, and he was magic.
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