Maradona won many trophies with Boca Juniors, FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli over the course of his career. During an international career that included 91 caps and 34 goals, he played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, leading the Argentina national team to its victory over West Germany in 1986 World Cup, in which he collected the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player. His second goal against England in the quarter-finals of the '86 tournament -- a spectacular 60-meter weave through six England players -- is commonly referred to as "The Goal of the Century." or, in Argentina, "The Cosmic Kite" (Spanish: El barrilete cósmico).
He is also considered one of the sport's most controversial figures. Maradona was suspended for 15 months in 1991 after a failed doping test for cocaine in Italy, and then again for ephedrine during the 1994 World Cup in USA.
After retirement from professional football on 30 October 1997, he suffered ill health and weight gain, along with ongoing cocaine abuse. However, a stomach-stapling operation helped control his weight gain. Since overcoming his cocaine addiction, he has become a TV host in Argentina.
Diego Armando Maradona was born in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, to a poor family that had moved from Corrientes Province. He was the first son after three daughters. He has two younger brothers, Hugo (el Turco) and Eduardo (Lalo), both of whom were also professional football players.
At age 11, Maradona was spotted by a talent scout while he was playing in his neighborhood club Estrella Roja. He became a staple of Los Cebollitas (The Little Onions), the junior team of Buenos Aires's Argentinos Juniors. As a 12-year-old ball boy, he amused spectators by showing his wizardry with the ball during the halftime intermissions of first division games.
Maradona had a compact physique and could withstand physical pressure well. His strong legs and low center of gravity gave him an advantage in short sprints. His physical strengths were illustrated by his two goals against Belgium in the 1986 World Cup. Maradona was a strategist and a team player, as well as highly technical with the ball. He could manage himself effectively in limited spaces, and would attract defenders only to quickly dash out of the melee (as in the second 1986 goal against England), or give an assist to a free teammate. Being short, but strong, he could hold the ball long enough with a defender on his back to wait for a teammate making a run or to find a gap for a quick shot.
One of Maradona's trademark moves was dribbling full-speed as a left wing, and on reaching the opponent's goal line, delivering lethally accurate passes to his teammates. Another trademark was the Rabona, a reverse-cross pass shot behind the leg that holds all the weight. This maneuver led to several assists, such as the powerful cross for Ramón Díaz's header in the 1980 friendly against Switzerland. He was also a dangerous free kick taker.
Maradona playing for Boca Juniors during 1981.Maradona made his professional debut on October 20, 1976 ten days before his sixteenth birthday, with Argentinos Juniors. He played there between 1976 and 1981, before his £1m transfer to the club that he supported, Boca Juniors. Joining the squad midway through the 1981 season, Maradona played through 1982, and secured his first league winners' medal. After the 1982 World Cup, in June, Maradona was transferred to FC Barcelona in Spain for a then world record £5m. In 1983, under coach César Luis Menotti, Barcelona and Maradona won the Copa del Rey (Spain's annual national cup competition), beating Real Madrid. However, Maradona had a difficult tenure in Barcelona. First a bout with hepatitis, then an ill-timed tackle by Athletic Bilbao's Andoni Goikoetxea jeopardized his career, but Maradona's physical strength and willpower made it possible for him to be back on the pitch after only 14 weeks. It is believed that it was while playing for Barcelona that Maradona was introduced to cocaine, to which he would become addicted
The Napoli era
Maradona got into frequent disputes with Barcelona's directors, especially club president Josep Lluís Nuñez. In 1984, he demanded a transfer out of Nou Camp. He subsequently went to Serie A and SSC Napoli for another record fee, £6.9m, and became an adored star among the club's fans, as he elevated the team to its most successful era. Napoli won their only Italian Championships (1986/87 and 1989/1990), a Coppa Italia (1987), a UEFA Cup (1989) and an Italian Supercup (1990). Napoli were also runners-up in the Italian Championship twice, in 1987/88 and 1988/89.
In Naples, Maradona was present during the transformation of the local club. They had traditionally been overshadowed by the teams from the industrial cities in the north, but Maradona's arrival (along with Careca and others) brought them a first scudetto in 1987. A second followed in 1990, along with cup successes. However, Maradona also faced a scandal there regarding an illegitimate son; he was also the object of some suspicion over an alleged friendship with the Camorra.
Maradona left Napoli in 1992, after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine. He played for Sevilla FC (1992–93), Newell's Old Boys (1993) and Boca Juniors (1995–97). He also attempted to work as a coach on two short stints, leading Mandiyú of Corrientes (1994) and Racing Club (1995), but without much success. He retired from football on October 30, 1997, his 37th birthday.
Maradona married long-time fiancée Claudia Villafañe on November 7, 1989 in Buenos Aires, after the birth of their daughters, Dalma Nerea (b. 1987) and Giannina Dinorah (b. 1989). In his autobiography, Maradona admits he was not always faithful to Claudia, even though he refers to her as the love of his life.
Maradona and Villafañe divorced in 2004. Daughter Dalma has since asserted that the divorce was the best solution for all, as her parents remained on friendly terms. They traveled together to Napoli for a series of homages in June 2005 and were seen together on many other occasions, including the Argentina matches during 2006 FIFA World Cup.
During the divorce proceedings, Maradona admitted he was the father of Diego Sinagra (b. Naples, 1986), as was claimed by the youth's mother Cristiana Sinagra. (The Italian courts had so ruled in 1993, after Maradona refused to undergo DNA tests for proving or disproving his paternity.) Diego Jr. met Maradona for the first time in May 2003 after tricking his way onto a golf course in Naples where Maradona was playing.
Drug abuse and health situation
Since the 1990s, Maradona has been a cocaine addict, which included spells in Swiss and Cuban detox clinics. Between 2002 and 2005, Maradona spent most of his time in Cuba.
On April 18, 2004, doctors reported that Maradona had suffered a major heart attack following a cocaine overdose; he was admitted to intensive care in a Buenos Aires hospital. Scores of fans gathered around the clinic. Days after the heart attack, a nurse was caught taking photos of Maradona with a mobile phone and was promptly fired by the hospital managers.
Fortunately he showed improvement and was taken off the respirator on April 23 and remained in intensive care for several days before being discharged on April 29. He returned to Cuba in May.
Maradona has always had a tendency to put on weight, and suffered increasingly with obesity from the end of his playing career until undergoing gastric bypass surgery in a clinic in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia on March 6, 2005. When Maradona resumed public appearances shortly thereafter, he displayed a notably thinner figure.
However, on March 29, 2007, Maradona was readmitted to a hospital in Buenos Aires. He was treated for hepatitis and effects of alcohol abuse, and was released on 11 April, but re-admitted two days later. In the following days there were constant rumors on his health, including three false claims of his death within a month. After transfer to a psychiatric clinic specialising in alcohol-related problems, he was discharged on May 7.
On May 8, 2007, Maradona appeared on Argentine television and stated that he has quit drinking and has not used drugs in two and a half years.
After the divorce, Claudia embarked on a career as a theatre producer, and Dalma is seeking an acting career; she has expressed her desire to attend the Actor's Studio in Los Angeles. Maradona has authored an autobiography entitled "Yo Soy El Diego" chronicling his life, both on and off the playing field. His autobiography was translated and published in English as Maradona: The Autobiography of Soccer's Greatest and Most Controversial Star.
Ever since 1986, it is common for Argentines abroad to hear Maradona's name as a token of recognition, even in remote places. In Argentina, Maradona is often talked about in terms reserved for legends. In the Argentine film El Hijo de la Novia ("The bride's son"), an actor who plays a fake Catholic priest says to a bar patron: "they idolized him and then crucified him". When scolded by a friend for taking the prank too far, the fake priest retorts: "But I was talking about Maradona".
In Buenos Aires, fans organized the "Church of Maradona." Maradona's 43rd birthday in 2003 marked the start of the Year 43 D.D. - "Después de Diego" or After Diego - for its founding 200 members. Tens of thousands more have become members via the church's official web site.
Hounded for years by the press, Maradona even fired a compressed-air rifle against reporters who, so he claimed, invaded his privacy. This quote from former teammate Jorge Valdano summarizes the feelings of many:
“ He is someone many people want to emulate, a controversial figure, loved, hated, who stirs great upheaval, especially in Argentina... Stressing his personal life is a mistake. Maradona has no peers inside the pitch, but he has turned his life into a show, and is now living a personal ordeal that should not be imitated. ”
A television commercial for Brazilian soft drink Guaraná Antarctica portrayed Maradona as a member of the Brazilian national football team, including wearing the yellow jersey and singing the Brazilian national anthem with Brazilian caps Kaká and Ronaldo. Later on in the commercial he wakes up realizing it was nightmare after having drank too much of the soft drink. This generated some controversy in the Argentine media after its release (although the commercial was not supposed to air on the Argentine market, fans could see it via internet. In May 2006, Maradona agreed to take part in UK's Soccer Aid (a program to raise money for Unicef). Maradona scored a penalty but it was too late to save the match which England won 2-1.
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