Life and crimes of Diego Armando Maradona


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Life and crimes of Diego Armando Maradona

Diego Maradona will have no need to make any wishes when he blows out the candles on his birthday cake on Thursday.

By Bob Williams
Last Updated: 6:18PM GMT 29 Oct 2008

1 of 10 Images

Hand of Diego: Maradona scores the controversial first goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final Photo: POPPERFOTO

Handy work: Maradona shakes hands with England captain Peter Shilton before the 1986 clash Photo: COLORSPORT

Golden moment: Maradona lifts the World Cup trophy in 1986 Photo: ASSOCIATED SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Neapolitan dream: Maradona celebrates Napoli's 1989 Uefa Cup final victory over Stuttgart Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Marital bliss: Maradona at his wedding to Claudia Villafane in Buenos Aires on Nov 7, 1989 Photo: REUTERS

Flash point: Maradona is held back as he tries to attack a photographer on the parking lot of a Havana supermarket in January 2000 Photo: AFP

20th century boy: Maradona collects the Fifa player of the 20th century award from Fifa president Sepp Blatter Photo: AP

Weighty matters: Maradona at his heaviest on a trip to Greece in 2005 Photo: AP

Body politic: A slim-line Maradona poses with Cuban leader FIdel Castro after live Cuban television broadcast in Havana Photo: REUTERS

Family man: Maradona with his wife Claudia, left and daughters Dalma, second left, and Giannina at the screening of Serbian director Emir Kusturica's documentary film 'Maradona by Kusturica' at the Cannes International Film Festival on May 20, 2008 Photo: AFP

After years battling with health problems, it is something of a miracle that El Diego has reached the ripe old age of 48. Yet he will mark the occasion, somewhat unbelievably, as the new Argentina coach – just the latest tale in the rise, fall and rise again of football's most controversial character.
Few footballers have caused as much admiration and derision than Maradona. Brilliantly gifted with the ball, Maradona had the ability to lift entire teams – notably Napoli and Argentina – to the highest level of the game. But to many, notably in England, he is seen as a disreputable cheat and dope fiend with highly dubious political affiliations.
One single game encapsulates Maradona's genius and flaws perfectly – Argentina's 2-1 quarter-final defeat of England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Set against the background of the Falklands War, Maradona sought to gain revenge on for his embittered country.
Six minutes into the second half with the game still goalless, Steve Hodge intercepted Maradona's pass to team-mate Jorge Valdano but he miskicked and hooked the ball towards his own penalty area.
Maradona, who had continued his run, seized his chance and beat the onrushing Peter Shilton to the ball but punching it into the net with the outside of his left fist.
To the disbelief of the England players and millions of fans watching at home, referee Al Bin Nasser, not having seen the infringement, allowed the goal.
At the post-game press conference, Maradona exacerbated the controversy further by claiming the goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God", coining one of the most famous quotes in sport.
Yet just five minutes later, Maradona went from zero to hero by scoring what his widely considered the greatest ever goal in the history of the game. Argentina's No 10 picked up the ball in his own half and with 11 touches swiveled around and ran more than half the length of the field, dribbling past five English players before slotting past Shilton.
By the time Maradona was at the peak of his powers in 1986, Maradona was no stranger to controversy.
After making his name with Argentinos Juniors in 1976, aged just 15, Maradona secured a move to Barcelona for a then world record £5million in 1982 and helped the Primera Liga club win the Copa del Rey a year later.
Maradona had a difficult spell with Barca, however, and it was there he began a long love affair with cocaine, to which he would become addicted.
After a series of disputes with Barcelona's directors, Maradona secured a move to Napoli for another record fee of £6.9million. The Argentine instantly became a hero in Naples and he led the club to a glorious five-year spell in which the club won the Serie A title twice, were runners-up twice and won the Uefa Cup and the Coppa Italia.
Yet Maradona's drugs problems came back to haunt him once again and he was banned from football for 15 months in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine.
On his comeback, Maradona tried to relive former heights at Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys and secured a place in Argentina's squad for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
A memorable goal against Greece – followed by an even more memorable celebration to the TV cameras – seemed to suggest that Maradona was back to his best. Controversy was not too far away, however, and he was sent home from the tournament in disgrace for failing a drug test for ephedrine doping.
After two ill-fated coaching stints with Deportivo Mandiyu for two months in 1994 and Racing Club for four months a year later, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 aged 37.
But it was then that Maradona's problems really began. He suffered a series of health problems caused by years of abuse to his body, becoming massively overweight.
Yet just when it seemed Maradona was on the verge of death, he recovered and following stomach stapling operation, he reinvented himself as a television host.
Now against the odds Maradona has been named Argentina's new national coach and has been entrusted with leading the country to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. To coin a phase, where did it all go right, Diego?
1. Almost single-handedly winning the the 1986 World Cup for Argentina. He played every minute of every game, scoring five goals and making five others.
2. Helping Argentina recover from a shock opening-game defeat to lowly Cameroon to reach the World Cup final four years later. Neither Argentina nor Maradona were at their best but they still managed to defeat Brazil and hosts Italy on the way to the final.
3. Leading unfashionable Napoli to their most successful era in the late Eighties, in which they won two Serie A titles, finished runners-up twice and lifted the Uefa Cup, Coppa Italia and Italian Supercup.
4. Jointly winning the Fifa Player of the Century award, along with Pele, in 2000. Maradona easily won the internet poll with 53.6 per cent of the vote, compared to Pele's 18.53 per cent.
5. Improbably being named Argentina's new national coach ahead of more experienced and qualified candidates.
1. Where do we start? Where else other than the 'Hand of God'.
2. Being sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States in disgrace after failing a drugs test for ephedrine, and was later banned for 15 months.
3. Handed a suspended jail sentence in 1998 for shooting journalists with an air rifle four years earlier.
4. Suspended for 15 months in 1991 following a positive test for cocaine while playing for Napoli.
5. A series of health problems caused by years of cocaine and alcohol abuse. He became massively bloated, peaking at 20 stone, and suffered a major heart attack in 2004.
YouTube moments
Watch: Maradona's greatest hits - his best tricks, fights and goals
Watch: 'Hand of God' and wonder goal against England in 1986 World Cup
Watch: Glory years with Napoli, 1984-1991
Watch: Manic goal celebration against Greece, 1994 World Cup
Watch: Interview with Gary Lineker about 1986 and all that

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