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Life in the Fast Lane: The End of El Diego's Road

Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60. The news of his passing was met with a tremendous outpouring of grief and disbelief; the president of his native Argentina declared three days of mourning, illustrating just how much of an impact the man aptly nicknamed “God” had.

The Sideliner would like to pay tribute to this giant of the game by remembering his greatest performance—his two masterstrokes against England at the 1986 World Cup, the day he transcended sports.

The Ultimate Entertainer

Maradona was already a household name by the time Argentina traveled to Mexico for football’s showpiece event. Revered in Naples for his exploits with SSC Napoli—he would lead Gli Azzurri to their first-ever league title the following year—El Diego captained an unfancied, mediocre La Albiceleste side at the 1986 World Cup.

A global audience watched on as El Pibe de Oro (the golden boy) ascended to divinity. With dazzling footwork, mind-boggling close control, and a seemingly inexhaustible fountain of creativity, Maradona starred as Argentina cruised to the knockout round. In the quarterfinals, he would take center stage, showing both sides of Diego Maradona: the vexatious and the stunningly brilliant.

The Hand of God

Just after halftime, with the game still scoreless, Maradona drove through the midfield, picked out a teammate, and continued his run into the box. The ball fortuitously found its way back to the diminutive magician, who leaped above legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched it into the back of the net. His transgression went unnoticed by the officials; the infamous “Hand of God” was born.

This iconic moment in football history perfectly encapsulates the polarizing aspect of El Diego; he was a master of the dark arts, someone who made a habit of breaking the rules on and off the pitch, a debauchee with little time for moderation and a recusant with a proclivity for overstepping the line.

The Goal of the Century

Moments later, as he received the ball and took off on a marauding run once more, the world held its breath. One by one, he bypassed the English backline with unsettling repose before rounding Shilton. Within four minutes, Maradona had brought England to its knees. It felt as though the planet had come to a standstill; disbelief palpably gripped the astonished spectators.

The “Goal of the Century” was Maradona at his best: pure and joyous, freedom personified. Argentina, inspired by their number ten, went on to win the World Cup, cementing El Diego’s status as an all-time great. The curly-haired superstar had reached a level of deification hitherto unseen.

Seraphic on the pitch, yet painfully human off it. When he wasn’t embroiled in escapades, El Diego used his notoriety to fight for the oppressed. He touched the hearts of millions through football, his talent thrusting him into the spotlight, ordained to be the face of the world’s most popular game. Diego Armando Maradona was a mortal who attained immortality.

 

Illustration by pinisantoro.

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