The Hand of Maradona
Maradona was an idol, now he is a monster.
Growing up there were few people I idolized: Paul McCartney, Michelangelo — the Ninja Turtle, not the artist — and none other than the greatest football player in history, the national hero, El Diez, Diego Armando Maradona. Like Paul was a musical god to me, Diego Maradona was like the all-mighty creator of my football universe, the father of golazos, the Argentinean savior. It wasn’t just the World Cup that he brought home in 1987, and it wasn’t the fact that he bled Boca Jrs. blue and yellow (and later the Barcelona blaugrana), it was the national pride that he brought the Argentinians, knowing that the greatest footballing nation fathered the greatest footballer in history. It was knowing that we have been right in claiming to be the best in the world, because we had created the best in the world.
I idolized Maradona like any other sane Argentinean did. I would watch his games on repeat as a child, I would buy DVDs of behind-the-scenes action from tournaments and study his game, his characteristics, his attitude, his dance moves. I would be mesmerized by the way he was so short yet jumped so elegantly for headers, the way he would cross from the right side with a tricky rabona, because he wouldn’t be as accurate with his right foot as his left, the way he invented moves on the fly to throw defenders off his trail, his speed, his finesse, his power. One of my most prized possessions growing up, even through college, was a poster from an old Argentinean magazine from the 90’s, with the image of La Mano de Dios, The Hand of God. I would have this poster up at any apartment I ever lived in. It was the first thing I noticed in the morning and the last thing I would look at before I started dreaming. But, like any celebrity who flies too close to the sun, it is a matter of time before they burn up, and fall crashing to the ground.
Growing up in the U.S. my view of the almighty Maradona was skewed. Of course, I heard of Maradona’s drug problems during the 1994 World Cup, which subsequently kept up throughout the next two decades, his problems with government and friendship with Cuban communist Fidel Castro, and also his weight problems, but that was the extent of my tainted view of Maradona. Not someone a child should idolize, but still simple enough to forget these transgressions next to the greatness he had accomplished earlier in his career. Hearing these news hurt most Argentinians, me especially, but it did not ruin my overall view of his life doings. I could easily ignore these small missteps and only praise his skills and his accomplishments on the pitch. He was still the greatest player in the history of the sport and a few blurred lines could not take that away from me.
But this year while living in Argentina, again, like it did throughout my teens, my vision cleared and I knew a different Maradona. In the U.S. you only hear the big news involving the football star, but in Argentina, he is in the news every day. Him and his family are treated like reality T.V. celebrities are in the U.S., so any little altercation, any little argument, any little drama and the Maradona family is in the news. Whether it be Diego, his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends, his daughters, or whoever, they are in the news and being depicted like they should be: trashy royalty. What are some of the headlines included in the slew of news? Diego won’t recognize another son from an ex-girlfriend, Dalma, Diego’s daughter, hasn’t spoken to Diego for weeks, Claudia Vallafane, Diego’s ex-wife, wants money. It’s a deluge of family drama you wouldn’t even expect from the Kardashians, but here in Argentina, the Maradonas and anyone closely related are like Kardashian royalty; trashy, reality T.V., waste-of-time royalty that everyone seems to not be able to stop talking about. After a few months of these stories plastered all over the newsstand and constantly playing on the news syndicates, I just could not take hearing his name any longer. And then matters got worse and I lost an idol.
This past week, a video surfaced of Diego Maradona hitting his 24-year-old girlfriend, and ex-fiancé, Rocio Oliva. Between drunken slurs and stumbling steps, Maradona raises his voice and his hand, that legendary “Hand of God,” to his girlfriend. The news hit the circuit here in Argentina, and before I even watched the video, I had denounced my football god. I had condemned one of my oldest and longest living idols. The unmeasurable detest I have towards any man who raises his hand to a woman is beyond words, and like anyone who quickly reaches the stars and flies too close to the sun, Maradona fell just as quickly, into the depth of what I hope to be his living hell. The drugs, the kids he won’t claim his own (albeit paternity tests), the countless girlfriends publicly flaunted, and now domestic violence. The loyal fans can only take so much before we throw your memories in the gutters, and not because we are being harsh, not because we are taken over by media outlets over-exaggerating stories for viewership, but because you have thrown your own life into the gutters, you showed your true self, and unfortunately for you, this time it was all on video for the people to really see your shitty soul.
The question now is what I do with my poster, that has meant so much to me for so many years? Does it still stand and celebrate a life of one of the greatest footballers, celebrating what he did for us and not what he is doing to himself now? Do I pretend his life ended in the 90’s and forget the rest, or will the poster forever rest in its grave, to never be brought up again? I don’t know. It’s just hard to even speak his name these days. And I hope more people feel the way I do and he is left to himself, left alone, taken away from the spotlight. Please don’t misinterpret that, I am not being merciful here, I am being as ruthless as can be. I hope he gets left alone because that would be the worst punishment for a small man who constantly acts out because he can’t bare not being in the news. Being forgotten would be hell for Maradona, seeing that people stopped caring about him will outright kill him, it would be his worst hell. So, let’s give him hell, people.
– Nahuel F.A.