The 10 departed: Diego Armando Maradona

For us, he was “the 10.” Speaking about the 10 always meant referring to Maradona, without discussion. In Naples, they baptized him “God.” He was much more than the best football player.

Love warmth and farewell sadness

Maradona knew that in all latitudes warmth of love stubbornly blossoms as well as in every corner scoundrel nest; greedy hoarders for whom the others do not matter, they ignore or use them. He knew that concentrating system brings disgraces to homeless and foodless people who die in seas of waves and selfishness, to those who suffer in refugees’ camps, those who barely survive in harsh scarcities of favelas, shantytowns, poor neighborhoods where he was born and lived. He knew first-hand about abandoned victims with no support or compassion, submitted to the brutalities of their exploiters. He learnt that such violations were not and are not natural phenomena, that there are guilty ones responsible for the oppression. He stood firmly opposing injustice.

In this world of inequalities, miseries, and pettiness, of former dictators and dominators elegantly disguised, where against all odds warmth of love and juvenile hope persist along the march, Diego Armando Maradona, The Diego, The 10, Pelusa, as each wants to call him, has parted. A gigantic being from sports and life, with grays and sparkles, how much do his sparkles dazzle! A people’s man, mourned by almost everybody, especially by the poor who think of him as one of their own, someone who neither betrayed them nor sold himself to the merchants.

In the middle of this mourning, Peter Shilton, goalkeeper for England in 1986 Mexico world cup who received two of the most famous goals of history from Diego Maradona, lamented his death and said that he had “greatness but not sportsmanship” because he never apologized for the goal called “God’s hand.”

Certainly, in a football match a goal made with a hand is a transgression to fair play. Nothing to discuss. Suddenly, I remembered a phrase from our Ernesto Sabato “history shows time and again that there are no invariable characters and that as economic, social, or religious conditions change, so do customs, modalities, tastes, humor. The search for a common denominator between the temperamental insolence and violence of the Elizabethan era and the phlegm that they pretend to make us believe to be a distinctive character of English race seems an enterprise heading for failure; such sense that can only be explained when a good empire has been rounded.”

Here is an invitation to enlarge the focus of the lenses with which we observe, the use of a “wide-angle lens” to capture the context.

The first thing to appear is that a few years prior to 1986 world cup two scoundrels (a dictator threatened trying to perpetrate himself and a Prime Minister with a metallic heart) produced a war for Islas Malvinas, Argentine territory that is still one of the last colonial aftertastes in Latin America. Maradona devoted all his energies and greatest creativity to that match against England. Did he express his indignation for seeing part of his country under foreign domination by acting as he did?

Let us keep on enlarging the wide angle. Maradona knew what colonizing processes, including the British, produced. Colonizers capitalized themselves with the wealth stolen from countries they left impoverished with their societies destroyed. For centuries, there was no geopolitical or human fair play; violations were not transgressions.

It is difficult to link distant and different events. For those who colonized other countries, it is pure justification of an indefensible act. For the victimized peoples, such abuse is unforgettable, must make amends.  Nevertheless, expropriation of resources persists. Let us hope that those who used their colonizing power to eliminate the warmth of so many loves know how to stand up in their responsibility and solidarity for humanity of which we are all part.

Mr. Peter Shilton has every right to express himself the way he did. Read once more Ernesto Sabato’s phrase and include in your perspective what colonizer England caused the world. Neither you nor the solidary British, which there are and it is worth recognizing them, were responsible. However, those sacred debts need to be honored; they are much more legitimate than those demanded by insatiable financial creditors nowadays.

To close, let me share an anecdote, something that probably happened to thousands of Argentines when travelling around the world. It has nothing heroic; it is pure tenderness and a personal way of remembering Maradona.

About 35 years ago, as member of Global Partners, we visited the Soviet Republic of Georgia. We were touring around with a local guide in a conflict zone, when we arrived at a village; I was separated from the group when trying to reach a primary school. Some kids gathered around me and we could not make ourselves understand as they only spoke their local language. I gestured a lot unsuccessfully. Until, I said Maradona. Wou! Many kids crowded around as they started to call each other. Suddenly, a little kid stepped forward and recited the names of Argentine National Team players with a loud applause by his mates when he mentioned Maradona. There, in a lost village, in an era of rudimentary communications in distant countries, The Diego called for people, and in what way!

A last paragraph, when Diego parted, Argentines, Neapolitans, and so many more, we cried for him inconsolably. Without embarrassment, with love for the more human of the gods as Eduardo Galeano called him. We knew Diego with his shadows, his pains, and loneliness, but Diego the 10, Diego the Pelusa, Diego the Great, a sun. We will not forget him.

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