The World Cup fever is starting to run deep. Soccer fans have been collecting and trading sticker packs for their World Cup albums and have begun dusting off their favorite team’s jerseys.
The World Cup has been a stage for some of the most iconic athletes of our generation. One of these is none other than Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer player that broke headlines time and time again.
Maradona’s legacy ended abruptly in November 2020 after he died of heart failure and pulmonary edema. With his birthday and Copa Mundial right around the corner, let’s look back at some of the stories that made Maradona an icon and worldwide phenomenon.
La Mano de Dios
During the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, Maradona made history as he led the Argentina National Team to its World Cup victory. “La Mano de Dios” (or “The Hand of God”) happened during the Quarter-Finals of the match between Argentina and England. In minute 51, Maradona used none other than his hand to make this fateful goal. While there are images that show he used his hand instead of his feet, the referee granted the goal to the Argentine national team.
This led to Argentina’s victory against England with a score of 2-1.
‘Player of the Century’ Ceremony
In 2000, it was time to pick FIFA’s ‘Player of Century.’ FIFA created an online polling system for fans all around to vote. Maradona won the popular vote. However, FIFA decided to add an additional award – Player of the Century by FIFA’s “football family.” Maradona’s award was reduced to “Internet” Player of the Century. The FIFA football family award was granted to Pelé.
Maradona attended the award ceremony but walked out as soon as he received his recognition. Pelé had yet to receive his award, but Maradona disagreed with having to share the prestige after the fans had clearly chosen him.
Fighting with Athletic Bilbao Players
During the 1984 Copa del Rey final, Maradona was responsible for inciting a massive riot. When the match ended, Maradona then proceeded to become physically aggressive with players of Athletic Bilbao by “headbutting Miguel Angel Sola, elbowing another and knocking out another Bilbao player with a knee to the head.” It became so out of control that even fans started throwing things.
Why was Maradona so angry, though? He was constantly ridiculed throughout the game, received racist remarks, and still felt some way after having his ankle broken by Bilbao’s Andoni Goikoetxea in a previous match.