Diego Armando Maradona was a brilliant football artist – and the first superstar to take on the mafia-like Fifa officials and the TV companies. In 1986 he protested unsuccessfully against the requirement to have to play in the scorching midday heat of Mexico. In 1995, a year after his controversial doping expulsion at the World Cup in the USA, he founded an international footballers union with Éric Cantona and George Weah, to which the Belgian Jean-Marc Bosman soon joined.
In Argentina, even after his lonely death and the three days of state mourning overshadowed by police violence and political disputes, the media fuss about “El Diego” is far from over. It is easy to overlook the fact that “only” a good two thirds of Argentines identify with Maradona, the “most human of all gods” (Eduardo Galeano). In any case, the vast majority of left feminists claim the “fighter full of contradictions” for themselves and their cause, and explain his well-known macho missteps with the system of patriarchy.
The boy from the poor area of Villa Fiorito was connected to Peronism from birth and just as erring as this popular, ideologically very broad movement. In the 1990s he liked to show himself together with the neoliberal head of state Carlos Menem, since 2003 he was a Kirchnerist. In 2005 Néstor Kirchner, Lula da Silva and Hugo Chávez prevented the American free trade zone ALCA in the Argentine seaside resort of Mar del Plata amid the cheers of the social movements. In his punk documentary, Emir Kusturica captured the enthusiasm in the stadium, where hundreds of thousands cheered Chavez, Evo Morales and Maradona with his anti-Bush T-shirt. The South American shift to the left condensed in a magical moment in Mar del Plata.
In October, shortly before his 60th birthday, the football god crossed blades with the right-wing liberal ex-President Mauricio Macri on social networks. In the luxury districts of the rich people wrinkled their noses at him. In any case, in the imaginary people’s pantheon of Argentina, he gets a place of honor between Evita and Che Guevara.
In Europe hardly an obituary, starting with Emmanuel Macron, could do without the obligatory distancing from Castro or Chavez – as if Maradona politically had not had all the cups in the cupboard. What a mistake: As for millions around the world, the two were for him very tangible symbols of resistance against US imperialism. In addition, the »Líder Máximo« had already become a father figure for him in 1987, and in 2000 a long cure in Cuba saved his life.
With his two unique goals against England at the 1986 World Cup, four years after the Malwin War, Diego Maradona immortalized himself as an anti-colonial rebel. Above all, the “hand of God” was celebrated in Ireland and India, by black activists in London or Lagos, as revenge on the Empire. So it’s no wonder that countless “damned people of this earth” in Syria and Bangladesh, in East Timor and South Africa mourn Diego Maradona.
The years at SSC Napoli (1984-92) brought the longest sporting high altitude and the first dramatic cocaine crash – Maradona was not the first star to be overwhelmed by fame. There remain the triumphs and titles against the bigwig clubs from Milan or Turin, with which he presented the whole of southern Italy. When the Argentines refused to allow the hosts to reach the World Cup final in Naples in 1990, Maradona had the Napoli Ultras on his side.
In this sense he was the Muhammad Ali of globalization, graceful artist in the arena, but also eloquent, excessive and uncompromising, politically incorrect and yes, authentic. “I’m a black-headed (that’s how people from humble backgrounds are called in Argentina, GD), I’ve never denied my origins,” said “El Diego” once. Or: “Yes, I am on the left, on the far left, from head to toe, in faith. But not as you define it in Europe. I want to improve the lives of the poor so that we can all have peace and freedom «. Finally: “If Pelé is Beethoven, then I am Ron Wood, Keith Richards and Bono, all together”.