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Argentine colleagues will have much more to say than I do, a simple Brazilian in love with football – and sports journalist, by chance.

But the death of Diego Armando Maradona demands that all of us, lovers of the most popular sport on the planet, demonstrate. That’s why I write. My first contact with the star Maradona happened in 1989, during the Copa America held in Brazil. I started my career and I saw him miss a goal at Maracanã. Yes … A missed goal, but what a move. From the midfield he tried to surprise the Uruguayan goalkeeper. The ball, capricious, touched the crossbar. Brazil ended up as champions of that Copa America, after 40 years.

In 1990, in Italy, my first World Cup, destiny wanted Brazil and Argentina to face each other, in the Delle Alpi (already demolished), in Turin, in the round of 16. The Brazilian team was a favorite, but Maradona, in a brilliant move, dismantled Brazil’s midfield and left Canniggia free to score and eliminate Brazil, Careca and Alemão, his Napoli teammates, were accused of not stopping the game.

I was assigned to get some interviews from the Argentina locker room. I happened to meet Maradona in the corridors of Delle Alpi. Seeing my badge, Don Diego was quick. “What a shame … Brazil and Argentina couldn’t play now … We had to make the final,” he said, sadly, with his hand on my shoulder. Except that when he met some countrymen, he assumed his true self and shouted “Argentina, Argentina”, forgetting the apparent sadness he was trying to convey to me.

In the semifinals, against Italy, Maradona divided the country by remembering that the North is not usually, let’s say, so affectionate with the South. “Now that they need you, they remember that Italy is one,” he said. I saw many Italians, from the South, cheering against Italy because of him, Maradona, the King of Naples.

I went to see him again, you see, on the same June 24 (date of the match at the World Cup in Italy), but this time in Rio de Janeiro, during the 2014 World Cup. I wanted to tell him about our first meeting, but he, surrounded by security guards, ran to work as a commentator. Maradona, the man who scored the goal “with la mano de Dios” at a World Cup; the greatest player in the world, according to the Argentines; an ace who got carried away by the drug; left us. Football is less and less romantic.

Source: Vicente Dattoli – AIPS EC member

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