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Diego Maradona: ‘the hand of God’

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Soccer great Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup, though his accomplishments were later overshadowed by his battles with drug abuse.


Synopsis
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Maradona led club teams to championships in Argentina, Italy and Spain, and famously starred for the Argentinean team that won the 1986 World Cup. However, the soccer legend’s career was marred by a pair of high-profile suspensions for drug use, and he has often battled health problems in retirement.

Childhood
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Villa Fiorito, a province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The fifth of eight children raised by Diego Sr. and Doña Tota, Maradona grew up in a poor but close-knit household. He received his first soccer ball as a gift at age 3 and quickly became devoted to the game.

At 10, Maradona joined Los Cebollitas, a youth team of Argentinos Juniors, one of the biggest clubs in Argentina. Showing his prodigious ability at an early age, Maradona led Los Cebollitas to an incredible 136-game unbeaten streak. He made his professional debut for the senior team shortly before his 16th birthday.

Professional Career
A short but fearless midfielder renowned for his ability to create scoring chances for himself and others, Maradona led club teams to championships in Argentina, Italy and Spain.

The pinnacle of his career came as a member of the Argentinean national team that won the 1986 World Cup. His performance there included two memorable goals in a quarter-final victory over England: The first was scored illegally with his left hand, which Maradona later claimed was the work of “the hand of God”; the second required no supernatural help, other than an otherworldly ability to dribble past an onslaught of defenders to find the back of the net. Altogether, Maradona played in four World Cups, and scored an impressive 34 goals in 91 international appearances for Argentina.

Despite his unquestioned brilliance on the pitch, the emotional Maradona became equally well known as a highly controversial figure. He became addicted to cocaine while playing in Spain in the 1980s and received a 15-month suspension after testing positive for the substance in 1991. Maradona endured another high-profile suspension three years later, this time for testing positive for ephedrine during the World Cup.

Maradona spent the twilight of his playing career in his home country, his physical skills diminished by mounting injuries and years of hard living. He announced his retirement on the eve of his birthday in 1997.

Post-Playing Career
The problems that plagued Maradona later in his playing career continued after his retirement. He was hospitalized for heart problems in 2000 and 2004, the second time requiring the use of a respirator to breathe properly. The following year he underwent gastric-bypass surgery to help stem his obesity.

An internet poll conducted by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association named Maradona the top player of the 20th century, but even that event was marked by controversy. Maradona chafed when a special panel was created to ensure that Pelé would be jointly honored, and then refused to share the stage with the Brazilian legend.

In 2008, Maradona was hired to coach the Argentinean national team. Although the Argentines boasted a talented squad headlined by Lionel Messi, perhaps the best player in the world, they were bounced from the 2010 World Cup with a 4-0 thrashing by Germany in the quarter-finals, and Maradona’s contract was not renewed.

Despite the public disappointments, Maradona remains beloved in Argentina as a native son who rose from humble beginnings to reach the apex of stardom on an international stage.

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World Football Legends: Luís Figo

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Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo (born 4 November 1972 in Almada) is a former Portuguese footballer who played as a midfielder for Sporting Clube de Portugal, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Internazionale during a career which spans over 20 years. He retired from football on 31 May 2009. He won 127 caps for the Portuguese national football team.

Figo was the 2000 European Footballer of the Year, the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year, and was named amongst the FIFA 100.

Figo is one of the few footballers to have played for both the Spanish rival clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, he had a successful career highlighted by several trophy wins, such as one Portuguese Cup, four Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, three Spanish Super Cups, one UEFA Champions League title, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, one UEFA-CONMEBOL Intercontinental Cup, four Serie A titles, one TIM Italian Cup and three Italian Super Cups.

Club playing honours

Sporting CP

Cup of Portugal: 1995
SuperCup Cândido de Oliveira: 1995

FC Barcelona

La Liga: 1997-98, 1998-99
Copa del Rey: 1997, 1998
Supercopa de España: 1996
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1997
UEFA Super Cup: 1997
Copa Catalunya: 2000
Joan Gamper Trophy: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999

Real Madrid
La Liga: 2000-01, 2002-03
Supercopa de España: 2001, 2003
UEFA Champions League: 2002
UEFA Super Cup: 2002
Intercontinental Cup: 2002

Internazionale

Figo’s Ballon d’Or

Serie A: 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09
Coppa Italia: 2006
Supercoppa Italiana: 2005, 2006, 2008

International playing honours

Portugal National Football Team
FIFA World Cup: (4th Place) 2006
European Football Championship: (runner-up) 2004, (3rd Place) 2000
FIFA U-20 World Cup: 1991

Individual playing honours

Ballon d’Or: 2000
FIFA World Player of the Year: 2001
FIFA World Player of the Year: (runner-up) 2000
Onze d’Or: (runner-up) 2000
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 2006
FIFA 100
UEFA Team of the Year: 2003
Don Balón Award Foreign Player of the year in La Liga : 1999, 2000, 2001
Portuguese Footballer of the Year: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
Portuguese Golden Ball: 1994
Best Portuguese player in the past five years (A Bola)

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World Football Legends: Gerd Muller

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Gerhard “Gerd” Müller; born 3 November 1945 in Nördlingen) is a former (West) German football player and one of the most prolific goalscorers of all time.

With national records of 68 goals in 62 international appearances, 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games and the international record of 66 goals in 74 European Club games, he was one of the most successful goalscorers of his era. Müller is now 8th on the list of all time international goalscorers. His nicknames are “Bomber der Nation” (the nation’s Bomber) and “kleines dickes Müller” (Small thick Müller, declension intentionally wrong).

In 1970 Müller was elected European Footballer of the Year after a successful season at Bayern Munich and scoring 10 goals at the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Before the goal scored by Ronaldo against Ghana in the Round of 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Müller held the all-time goal-scoring record in the tournament, with a 14-goal total.

Honors

Titles with Bayern Munich

Bundesliga: 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974
German Cup: 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971
European Champions’ Cup: 1974, 1975, 1976
Intercontinental Cup: 1976
Cup Winners’ Cup: 1967

Titles with the national team

European Championship: 1972
World Cup: 1974

Personal honours

German top scorer: 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978
European top scorer: 1970, 1972
World Cup top scorer: 1970
European Championship top scorer: 1972
Eurochampionscup Topscorer 1973 ,1974 ,1975 ,1977
German Footballer of the Year: 1967, 1969
Voted best Player 40 Years Bundesliga 1963-2003
European Footballer of the Year: 1970
World Football’s Greatest Goalscorer of All Time (awarded in 2000)
Named to FIFA 100

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Champions League: Why we beat Barcelona 3-0 – Roma manager, Di Francesco

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Roma manager, Eusebio Di Francesco, has spoken on his side’s surprised victory over Spanish giants, Barcelona, in the second leg of the Champions League quarter final yesterday. (more…)

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