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Lingering shadow of Maradona

Even after death Maradona’s presence could be felt as accusations have emerged about his death being unnatural.

After his chaotic funeral authorities raided the homes and offices first of his doctor and then his psychiatrist as investigations into Maradona’s complex medical history have picked up steam.

Maradona died at 60 after a lifetime of notorious excess, overindulging in cocaine, booze and pizza. He had mental breakdowns, emergency surgeries and even a stomach-stapling operation.

Yet still, to so many who idolized him the improbability of an immortal fading from the scene before the telling of his myth has finished. Such is the global power of both footballand Maradona’s legend that his death was not just an Argentine tragedy.

Memorials and murals to the irrepressible attacker — arguably the greatest player in the sport’s history — sprang up on almost every continent.

In his adopted city of Naples, where figurines of Maradona often sit alongside those of Christ in seasonal Nativity displays, countless fans converged on the cavernous stadium that bore witness to perhaps his greatest triumph.

From a sporting perspective, Maradona sits atop football’s pantheon, with perhaps only the Brazilian Pele for company. In years to come, they’ll likely be joined by the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, another Argentine, both players whose lists of personal accolades surpass those of the older pair.

But the extent of Maradona’s celebrity — and the fervor of his admirers — may never be seen again.

Maradona was a true populist. He grew up in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and would be defined by his determination to both escape and yet still represent his origins. He absorbed the pejoratives of his place with indigenous blood looked down upon by more well-to-do (and White) Argentines.

He however prospered and scored the infamous “hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, where he knocked in the ball with a clenched fist.

He followed up that act of cheating with one of genius, a slaloming run through the English team that
ended with the ball in the net. He captured the hearts of Naples when he played for their club.

In his own life, he was no moral exemplar, leaving behind a trail of lavish waste, mafia ties, unpaid taxes, allegedly abused women and neglected children. At his death, it seemed there was no closure to his endless struggle with addiction.

He was a perfect embodiment of the human ability to be contradictory, to do and convey ugly and beautiful at once, good and evil in the same stroke.

His celebrity status was not separate from his private self — he was achingly human in every way, yet a superstar at all times.

This article originally appeared in The Weekender and has been reproduced with permission

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