The number ten means different things in different places. In the UK, the number ten refers to the Prime Minister's Office. In many countries, the number 10 is synonymous with the last year of secondary school. In Argentina, the number ten has only one fundamental interpretation. That is Diego Armando Maradona, one of the best soccer players that have ever played on earth. The number ten in Spanish spells out DIEZ. But if you refer to Maradona, one would refer to him as D10S, the merge from 10 and G'd (D's).
His recent death at 60 was considered a national mourning, and not just in Argentina. Football (soccer) fans all around the world cried for him. He played for Naples in Italy, who immediately renamed its stadium to Diego Armando Maradona immediately after his death.
The relationship Maradona had with people all around the world was hard to explain. His love for the game and dedication to defending the poor clashed with his long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol. He faced numerous controversies with several paternity suits and alleged acts of mistreatment against women. But people continued to admire him, regardless. Politicians of all parties have traditionally used every opportunity for a picture with him to gain the political upper hand. Argentina's current president was no exception. Upon his death, president Fernandez decreed three days of national mourning and supplied the presidential house for his funeral. During the lockdown and with schools closed for the entire year, some people estimate that close to 1 million people paid Maradona respect. It was crowded, messy, and without social distancing.
Maradona was the national team captain when Argentina last became world champion in 1986. He also led the team to the World Cup again in 1990. One highlight of that Cup took place in the semi-final against Naples, Italy. Maradona's charisma was so powerful that Italians rooted for Argentina in that game against their own country. The result was a draw, and Argentina beat Italy in the penalty shootouts.
Maradona's key moments in his career were on the 22nd of June in 1986, the quarter-finals match against the UK in the World Cup. That match was a lot more than just football. Four years prior, a war took place between the two countries for the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, or the Islas Malvinas called in Argentina. The match ended 2-1 for Argentina, and Diego was the one that scored both goals. The first goal Maradona scored was the legendary "Hand of God." Maradona cheated and scored with his hand without being seen by the referee. Later in the press conference, a reporter asked if the goal was hit by his hand, and he quickly replied, "It was the hand of God." Maradona took that message with him, and he created a brand with it. The second goal was considered a feat. He dribbled through 6 English players, including the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, to shoot to the net. It was and is regarded as one of the best goals ever for the World Cup.
His charisma was so influential that despite all the times he cheated, all his addictions, and many more defects, he was still loved by everyone. My parent's generation had an enormous appreciation for him. For any Argentinian in the eighties or nineties, the question "where are you from" was followed by "Argentina, Maradona." And even the ones who haven't seen him play adore him. He was internationally loved and idolized. Many English players like striker Gary Lineker (now a presenter for the BBC) loved him despite his record of cheating. It wasn't easy to be Maradona. He came from a slump in Buenos Aires' outskirts, and by the age of 18, he was already a superstar. Diego was a world-renowned football player, but coping with the fame took a toll on his emotional well-being.
Even after his passing, Maradona still achieved the impossible. Regardless of the polarization in politics, ideologies, lifestyles, and of course, soccer. Yet, Diego managed to unite the country. He is, was, and will still be Diego Armando Maradona, or D1OS, as I prefer to call him. Rest in peace, Diego!
Emilia Borenstein is a BBG from Argentina who is 15 years old and loves history.
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