The man that many Argentinians called “Dios”, god in Spanish – sometimes written “D10S”, in reference to his jersey number, 10, in the Argentine national team – died of a heart attack on November 25th. He had just turned sixty. He was at his home in Tigre, a large suburb of Buenos Aires, where he was resting after having undergone a brain hematoma surgery in early November. The death of the former football star has shocked his country. Three days of national mourning were decreed.
He played with Barcelona, then with Napoli. He was world champion with the Argentinean team in 1986. The famous number 10. He was as hated as he was adored. Maradona was sixty years old but, it was reported, his body looked twenty years older. Two men used to help him walk, they held him when he had to sit down.
His last public appearance took place on October 30th. He went to the Juan-Carmelo-Zerillo stadium in La Plata, southeast of Buenos Aires, to attend, after seven months of absence, the first game of the team he coached: the Gimnasia La Plata. The stadium was empty of supporters, due to Covid-19. It was his birthday. Hospitalized three days later to undergo surgery for a brain hematoma, he died of a heart attack, as announced by his spokesman on Wednesday, November 25th.
The death of the “Pibe de Oro” (“The Golden Kid”), as many Argentinians call him, will likely continue to draw antagonisms among football fans. Few sportspeople have fed the two opposing factions: adulation and hatred. The author of the “hand of God” in the 1986’s World Cup, the protégé of the Neapolitan mafia and friend of Hugo Chavez, the cocaine addict, was not a model of virtue.
His humble origins helped shape the “Maradona myth” in the popular Argentinean imagination, especially among the poorest. In spite of his mischief, his fans revered him with a visceral and unconditional love.
Despite all the controversies around him —or maybe because of them—, Maradona might remain as one of the greatest players in the history of football.