In 1986, a few weeks after becoming a legend in Mexico, Diego Maradona saved Paolo Sorrentino’s life. The filmmaker, one of the most recognized in Europe today, was 15 years old when his fanaticism for Napoli and the number ten led him to beg his parents to be able to travel and witness a team away match, in Empoli. For the first time in his life, he received the permit and even traveled to Tuscany. Upon his return he learned of the tragedy: his mother and father had died from a gas leak that would also have killed him had he been in the same Roccaraso vacation home as them. Decades later, Sorrentino dedicated the Oscar to his hero.
Maradona’s passage through this world is much more significant than he could ever understand in life. And that his perception was crystalline and comprehensive, although of course insufficient. His foot reached every corner of the planet, which a year ago fired him like no other man. Millions of lives were traversed by its presence. It is impossible to imagine how many Sorrentinos there are, as it is also impossible to describe the magnitude of their effigy in the future.
The human being is already dead, the emblem remains. About what? of what each one chooses. Maradona can be a flag at a protest or a mural in a school. The scope of your figure has no limits. The people have taken it as their own. Or the peoples. Not only the Argentine or the Neapolitan. It exceeds geographical, social and cultural limits. And it is omnipresent, with pardon for the ease of comparison with religious gods (less than mythological or pagan).
A year after his death, those of us who remain on earth are still his contemporaries and, as such, we seek to bring him back to life in the face of every event that he could have been a part of, as a protagonist or as an observer. It is a universal reflex action. During these twelve months, the question was reiterated at bar tables, friends’ meetings, soccer fields, social networks and various forums. “What would Diego have said or done?” with all its variants; or the exclamation “if Diego were …”
Following each statement, as many answers as there are speakers. Soccer continued to be played after November 25 last and will continue to be played after this. There were new champions, old winners, rising players and declining footballers. Everything happened without the most sought after look, without the expected word. Or maybe it was, because In this collective imagination, Maradona spoke about everything, as always.
The most important event of the football year in America and perhaps the most outstanding in the entire world was the coronation of Argentina in the Copa América. Or, rather, the first title of Lionel Messi with the shirt of his national team. In the middle of Maracana and against Brazil, the Albiceleste was crowned and broke a 28-year drought. A long torment that Diego suffered as a footballer, since the 1994 United States World Cup was the first tournament on the list of frustrations.
In a more fortunate parallel reality, without a pandemic, Maradona would have been firm in the stands of the stadium, just as he was in the 2014 final. He would have jumped with the goal of Ángel Di María, the skinny and questioned teenager who gave him the title in 2010. He would have received the champions with a loving and genuine hug. A hug from partner. He would have smiled at the captain from afar, who with his same love for the jersey and his same courage did not give up and achieved the goal.
“He can’t even direct traffic,” was the last Diego said about Lionel Scaloni. But after the coronation in Rio de Janeiro, perhaps his speech was “I congratulate you, you already have your driving record.” His opinion, like that of the majority of Argentines, would have changed. And less for the cold result than for the fact of having consolidated a very Argentine way of playing. No one can deny that the courage shown that day in the Maracana is Maradonian.
A few weeks after the title, Lionel Messi left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in one of the most important transfers of all time. For the first time, the Rosario left the club of his entire life. In 2020, when he was about to leave, Maradona ventured: “I know that Messi is going to go badly with Barcelona. Or, at least, it’s not going to go the way it deserves. I left the same. Barcelona, the Barcelona club, don’t care what you give them, they don’t thank you. They are going to pay him like they paid me ”. He was right. Messi left amid tears and with the desire for a different ending.
The destination chosen by Leo would have been at least unpleasant for Diego, always at odds with the commercialism of football beyond his time at a small club in the United Arab Emirates. “He should have gone back to Newell’s” or “Serie A is his place, but not Juventus please,” he would have shouted. However, the presence of Mauricio Pochettino, as happened to Messi himself, could have made him change his mind at least a little. It is that the DT shared a room with him during his time at Newell’s and expressed his unconditional love for the idol on more than one occasion. In addition, Maradona respected him and a lot in his role as coach, so much so that he visited him when he was managing Tottenham Hotspurs.
Marcelo Gallardo is one step away from winning his first league title with River. Beyond the obvious rivalry, they always showed great mutual affection. Therefore, there is no doubt that there would be a demonstration of respect and admiration on the part of Maradona towards the best Argentine soccer coach. “He is a tremendous coach, he lives for this and directs how he played. He’s like me, he thinks about the games attacking, with intensity, how we played on the court. He deserves everything that happened to him in River, but enough old man, you got here Don’t you want to leave anything for others? “, Once said the idol of Gallardo, who dismissed him with a phrase that remained in the memory:” That man filled my pillow with dreams since I was little or I have reason to connect with football in a special way. “
The departure of Carlos Tevez from Boca Juniors was one of the great themes of this year. The alleged conflict with Juan Román Riquelme and the hasty goodbye are unavoidable ingredients for Maradonian verbiage. In addition, with both he cultivated a relationship of extremes, as with almost all the characters that mattered to him. He put Carlitos under his wing, sheltered him and accompanied him. With Roman it was all more stormy, since that time in command in a Superclassic in 1997. It is clear which side Diego would have taken. His defense of Tevez would have been absolute and would have rekindled old grudges with the now vice president.
Italy-England played a Euro final in which it was not difficult to imagine Maradona as a luxury spectator. Two teams that suffered like few others. Two historical adversaries. Perhaps, the rivalry with the English has been more visceral and public, while with the Italians the enmity grew in another way, as intimate resentments grow. It is clear that he would never have wished for a British triumph, but neither would he have celebrated the consecration of the Azzurra. Although the fact of seeing the happy Neapolitan people.
The common life between Maradona and Pelé was as oscillating as the talent of both was great on the court. It began with a great fascination of the Argentine for the Brazilian and ended with an eternal and sometimes caricatural enmity. However, Edson’s farewell was that of a friend grieving with genuine heartbreak. After the departure of the only player who knew how to keep up with him, the three-time world champion had several health problems, from which he was able to leave without a word of encouragement from Diego, who would undoubtedly have expressed his wishes for recovery despite everything.
A few days ago, the Buenos Aires city police killed Lucas González in another easy-trigger case. He was a young 17-year-old soccer player, who had come from training in the lower divisions of Barracas Central. The football environment shyly asked for justice, with some exceptions. Maradona and his total flagging were missing, without half measures, without measuring consequences.
“Maradona is my childhood. He is the world before anything else ”, once affirmed Paolo Sorrentino. The world before anything. Maradona man died, but the Maradona symbol is just born. It will change with the peoples. And it will be. Before anything.