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Maradona: The ‘hand of God’ lives on

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A little bit by the Hand of God, a little bit by the Head of Maradona.

Sometimes, a person lives a simple but active life as a citizen in a country without holding any high public office. Yet at the end of his or her span through his or her little contribution to society, it is as if a part of the sky above had collapsed; and everyone feels somewhat diminished and sorrowful. It was William Shakespeare who wrote in one of his epic works, Julius Ceasar that “…When beggars die, there is no cometh seen, the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes…”.

Of course, he was not born a prince neither with a silver spoon in his mouth. In a shantytown, he grew up off the Argentine capital. However, through providence, he became a king on the pitch of play and was worshiped like a god for doing what he knows best with football.

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It is one of disbelief and outpouring grief among football lovers across the world as death the perennial reaper came knocking on Diego Amando Maradona’s door on November 25, 2020. By the time of his demise at age 60, Maradona was not only a celebrated footballer, but he had also become a household name. He was revered by everybody particularly young folks who perhaps never saw him tap the round leather game yet they flick his image and mimic his dribbling tactics and goal celebration fist throw. Indeed, the news of Maradona’s demise shook the entire world like an earthquake just as it spreads like wild harmattan fire. The football pitch gave him immense joy and satisfaction hence he is seen at almost every part of the pitch running after the ball in his thirst for goal. Maradona’s efforts are best appreciated when it is realised that he was not the first footballer that mesmerised the world with his wonderful skills in the game of football. Hence, the ascription as the greatest player of all time is an open question and people would have their own comment on the debate.

But, one thing is certain: He is a titanic figure in the world of football and of course the world of sports. If there was to be a roll call on the list of greatest footballers of all times, his name would definitely come to mind first before others. In terms of teamwork, inspiration, and individual efforts, Maradona occupies a prime position. He brought to the football pitch skillful talents and produces finishes that are so unbelievable that no one in the current crop of footballers around the globe except Lionel Messi, to some extent, compared with him. He was voted FIFA player of the Century alongside the Brazilian legend, Edson Arantes dos Nascimento, popularly known as Pele. Hence, the argument over who is the very best between Maradona and Pele remains an individual opinion. But there is no mistaking the fact that Maradona was the best of his generation. He was indeed the hero of the 1986 World cup that he captained a crazy football nation, Argentina to win.   

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Born on October 30, 1960, Maradona had an astronomical rise from obscurity and poverty by virtue of his talent for playing the game for which so many people are so passionate. He hit the international limelight during the U-21 FIFA World Youth Championship hosted by Japan in 1979. His individual efforts and inspiration on the team made Argentina look unstoppable during the tournament. His determination and resilience in the tournament earned him six goals and the second-best marksman recognition. Maradona’s exceptional talent was quite obvious from a very young age. At age eight in Argentino’s junior trials the coaches were amazed at what he did with the ball and could only assist in developing his skills being helpless to sign him because he was underage. He won trophies on many different continents and perhaps the biggest trophy that exists in the world, the football world cup. He is regarded by many people as a gifted player that ever played the game of football. Somehow, Maradona suffered naturally due to the kind of immense limelight that is attached to the adoration he received from public life.   

At the most concrete level of Maradona’s football career, he had an ineradicable impact on drug and alcohol addiction. The two dangerous substances tormented him, even as he battled with them in Napolis where the ugly habit erupted. Of course, this led to him being banned from playing the game by FIFA on several occasions. He was seen as someone bigger than life in many ways this was perhaps as a result of his brush with death over his several hospitalisation incidences. Maradona’s life and times mirror a great lesson for footballers, celebrities, and upcoming young ones to clearly abstain from drugs and substances.

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However, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is lucky that none of its former and current star players have soiled their names in drug or alcohol use. Yet, the game of football in the country, according to former international, Felix Owolabi, is dead and there is nothing to write home about. Therefore, he expressed dismay and stressed that the continuous neglect of grassroots football programmes and the inability to regularly feature home-based players due to the rigid position of national team coaches has affected the standard of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). Owolabi posited that: “During my era in the national team, home-based players were the strong force in the national team. Foreign-based players came to Nigeria to compete for shirts because outstanding players were abundant in the senior national team…”. In Nigeria currently, the use of Cocaine and Heroin is comparatively low but the most dangerous widespread drug use is the non-prescription consumption of tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids. As a matter of fact, governments need to put a stern control in place as drug abuse is becoming rampant among young people in Nigeria and across the world generally.     

It is clear that Maradona will be greatly missed and would be most remembered for how he inspired his country to the world cup victory in 1986. Truly, Maradona was a genius and an icon in the game of football. He was true, one of the very best and a few who are giants, who stand tall and magnificent at the mention of football the world over. May his gentle soul rest in peace! Also, may the hand of God direct referees’ eyes to catch the right moments and movements in the football pitch. Adieu Maradona!

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