Maradona!

For those who fell for football in the very early 80s thanks to Steve Sumner, John Adshead and all the rest, we were lucky to have two of the best ever World Cups one after the other.

Getting up in the middle of the night in the middle of a New Zealand winter to watch was like stepping into an exotic, over-colorised world of blaring horns, Adidas footballs, lots of hair and DRAMA. There was a guy called Socrates for goodness sake. The All Blacks, fresh off the Springbok tour, seemed like a trip to the dental clinic next to all that.

España 82 was great because of the All Whites - the Brazil game probably provoked a an outbreak of nasty injuries as kids tried and failed to do a Zico at school later that morning. We were good, but outclassed. Then came Brazil v Italy, West Germany v France with the villainous Schumacher and Tardelli cry-running after scoring in the final.

Maradona was there, but was marked into submission. It was different in Mexico in ‘86. You can watch him this morning on YouTube, sprinting at defenders, spinning like a top and laying on assists so good even his team mates forget they play football and muff them.

Yes, Lineker scored the most goals, but everyone remembers Diego, sucking up all the attention and oxygen in the tournament, seeming to get stronger as it went. The Hand Of God thing is what you do when you have the skills, but also chutzpah to match. He could do anything.

He was there again in 1990, but the magic had largely gone, Argentina had turned to the dark side, becoming a complaining, fouling team and it wasn’t the same. He was even there in 94, for a while, but this was the start of his slide into his post-playing career. For years, the cameras would pick him up at any sporting event going (including a few All Blacks v Argentina tests), with his appearance and how he carried himself jarring against the magic in his name, or what his feet could once do.

He and Pele are the two greatest (if you don't count Best, Platini, Messi and Teddy Sheringham etc), but Pele was before my time really. And didn’t have the drugs and mafia stories to add a layer of intrigue. For everyone who got up early to watch in the 80s, Diego is Our One - we’ll miss him, but mostly we’ll miss what he used to be able to do.

Thanks for reading - Richard

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