Assistant Opinions Editor
Being raised by parents from Brazil, my parents would bitterly remember the man who stopped Brazilian dreams cold in the 1990 World Cup tournament. Argentina’s favorite son, Diego Maradona, was the one responsible for Brazil’s elimination from that tournament. Maradona’s one man stand against half of the Brazilian defence paved the way for the goal that would knock us out. Losing to arch-rivals Argentina added even more salt to the wound. Although my parents were bitter at the loss, they were not bitter at Diego Maradona. His genius and talent mesmerized all who watched the grainy TV screens of the 80s and 90s.
Just as Maradona caused grief to his soccer enemies, his death on November 25 rendered the same emotions to all fans of soccer. Coming home from work, I found my father weeping and talking to his brother on the phone, reminiscing the feats of Maradona they both were lucky enough to witness. They also discussed the many flaws he had, flaws which probably caused his untimely death at 60 years.
While we reminisce about Maradona, we should not forget the darker side of the legend. Maradona was heavily addicted to cocaine. He was kicked out of the 1994 World Cup in the United States after he tested positive for ephedrine in his system. Judging by a maniacal goal celebration, some have speculated that there was more than just ephedrine flowing in his veins. Maradona kicked his cocaine habit in 2004. By then, it was too late. Maradona was playing not at the world stage being paid millions, but in friendly tribute games.
Maradona was also involved with questionable figures in both politics and crime. When playing for Italian club Napoles, Maradona was often accused of associating with the Camorra, a loose criminal organization that dealt with hard drugs. He is also accused of owing vast amounts of tax money to the Italian government.
He was also known for his left-wing sympathies when it came to politics. The politicians he associated with wouldn’t be your local Bernie Sanders, but more to the tune of none other than Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Both of which are villains accused of committing numerous human rights violations against their own peoples. Maradona maintained close relationships with these thugs throughout his life.
Diego Maradona is the quintessential South American rags to riches story, especially in the world of soccer. The age-old tale of a poor child gifted with supernatural soccer skills, climbing his way to a club contract, joining the elite world of professional soccer players and subsequently drowning in excess and vice has happened too many times to count.
Even with all of this being said, Maradona’s contribution to the joy of the world outweighs his flaws and shortcomings. With his elusive feet and iconic bear-mane hair, Diego Maradona simply made it look easy.
We shouldn’t remember Maradona as “the God”, as some of his fans like to call him, or as a saintly superhero. We should remember Diego Maradona as Diego Maradona. His impact on not only soccer, but on the emotions of fans and fellow players will be felt long after his untimely death. After all, if you can make a salty working Brazilian man cry, then you really must be something special!