Football legend Diego Maradona brought tears of joy to his fellow Argentinians and football fans around the world with his on-field prowess and supernatural command of the ball.
His death on Wednesday at age 60 brought them to tears again, this time mourning the passing of a unique talent who lived life with the same passion with which he played football.
In summing up his career during a tribute match on November 10, 2001, as he bid farewell to the fans of his beloved Boca Juniors at the Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires, Maradona said, “I made mistakes and I paid the price, but the ball is never tainted.”
One of the mistakes he was referring to was testing positive for doping at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, after ephedrine was detected in his blood after Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria in the group stage.
Maradona, 60, died at his home after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday, following brain surgery in early November due to a stroke.
His larger-than-life personality and fancy footwork gained him a following across the globe.
He led Argentina to glory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico with an outstanding performance in which he scored two of the most celebrated goals in football history during a quarterfinal match against England.
The first and probably most controversial goal on record was, according to Maradona, abetted by “the hand of God.” In reality, the ball had made convenient contact with his left hand but the referee had missed it, so Maradona passed it off, in typically jovial fashion, as an otherworldly event.
The second goal went down as one of the finest in the history of the World Cup. Maradona danced past five England players in a sprint from midfield to the goalmouth before sliding the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
Maradona flirted with death on several occasions, mainly due to a prolonged addiction to cocaine that severely stressed his heart.
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On his 60th birthday on October 30, he insisted on going to the stadium of the team he coached, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, despite being in very poor health.
Days later, he was hospitalized with a stroke and underwent brain surgery, but was unable to make a full recovery