04 December 2020

Diego Armando Maradona — A leftie on the feet, on the hands and on the mind.



El Pibe de Oro is no more. The Golden Boy was 60 years old when he took his inimitable character to regions unknown, but even at that age he was as young as he was in 1977 when, at just 16, he made his international debut for Argentina, against Hungary.

Diego Armando Maradona. We don’t have to say ‘remember that name!’ Simply, it is unforgettable and not just for football fans. And for non-football reasons as well.  Nevertheless it was football that branded him and that’s where the whistle ought to be blown to start things off.

He is considered one of the greatest players of all time and has the rare distinction of sharing the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award with that other unforgettable, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé.

His bio is out there for anyone interested in the deets, the awards, the accolades, the uniqueness and of course the controversies. And the moves, the incredible free kicks, field vision, creativity, ball control, passing, dribbling, presence and leadership are all a few clicks away. As text and visual.

His is a story. An epic of sorts. And who best can give a nutshell version that the man dubbed (among other distinguished descriptives) ‘Global soccer’s pre-eminent man of letters,’the Uruguayan ‘Literary giant of the Latin American left,’ Eduardo Germán María Hughes Galeano, who was interestingly born just a month before the legendary Pelé.

Galeano’s ‘Football in sun and shadow,’ considered one of the top 100 sports books of all time, is a history of soccer which, according to The New Yorker ‘stands out like Pelé on a field of second-stringers.’ ‘Stands out like Maradona,’ would also work.

‘No one can predict the devilish tricks this inventor of surprises will dream up for the simple joy of throwing the computers off track, tricks he never repeats. He's not quick, more like a short-legged bull, but he carries the ball sewn to his foot and he's got eyes all over his body. His acrobatics light up the field....In the frigid soccer of the end of the century, which detests defeat and forbids all fun, that man was one of the few who proved that fantasy can be efficient.’

This is true. On and off the football field. On and off football, too. The media outfit Redfishstream speaks of that ‘other side’ of Maradona which, arguably, was as key a heart-part as football was thus in a short but pertinent note of appreciation:

‘Diego Maradona, anti-imperialist, socialist and arguably the greatest football player of all time passed away at the age of 60.

‘Maradona was a leftist on the football fields and also in politics. As a football player he tirelessly fought against corruption in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), which he compared to a mafia. He struggled to unionize football players and in the late 90s, Maradona, with other prominent stars, formed the International Association of Professional Football Players to defend players' rights.

‘Maradona, also known as "El 10", openly showed his support to left-wing, socialist and progressive movements and governments in the world and specifically in Latin America. He also openly defied imperialism and colonialism and was a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause saying "in my heart I am Palestinian." and "I am a defender of the Palestinian people, I respect them and sympathize with them, I support Palestine without fear”.

‘He proudly wore a Che Guevara tattoo on his arm and a Fidel Castro one on his leg. He was a close friend and supporter of Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Fidel Castro among other socialist leaders. He once said "I believe in Hugo Chávez. I am Chavista. Everything that he and Fidel do, from my point of view, is the best". As a socialist and anti-imperialist Maradona remained a committed supporter of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution and progressive social movements across Latin America, never losing hope in the poor and the oppressed to emancipate themselves.’

And here’s the defining quote that Redfishstream has picked:

"I am from the left in the sense that I am (...) for the progress of my country, to improve the life of poor people, so that we all have peace and freedom." [...] "We cannot be bought, we are lefties on the feet, we are lefties on the hands, and we are lefties on the mind. That has to be known by the people, that we say the truth, that we want equality, and that we don't want the Yankee flag planted on us.”

Redifshstream should have the last word: ‘Rest in power, Diego Armando Maradona!’


Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']

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