is Maradona. Maradona is Argentina."
psychologist Gustavo Bernstein
was sent into a state of panic in April 2004 when Diego Maradona,
considered by many as the greatest soccer player ever to play
the game, was hospitalized at a private clinic in Buenos Aires.
Listed in critical condition due to heart and blood pressure
problems, Maradona was breathing with the help of a respirator
as a country prayed for the recovery of its favourite son.
News of Maradona's condition dominated front-page headlines
in soccer-mad Argentina where he is considered a god. "Maradona
hospitalized: severe cardiac crisis," read the front
of the prominent daily La Nacion, while the Diario Popular
proclaimed, "Diego fights for his life!"
regained consciousness one week later before eventually checking
himself out of the clinic. During the length of his hospitalization,
fans lined the street outside the clinic for days on end,
carrying on vigils, saying prayers and holding up pictures
of the Argentine legend.
episode was just the latest in a long line of incidents that
has marked the life and times of this sporting icon.
child prodigy who went on to lead his country to victory at
the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Maradona is a national symbol
for Argentina on par with Evita Peron. However, his indulgence
in a decadent lifestyle and chronic drug use over the years
has sullied his reputation outside Argentina, sparking spirited
debate over whether he deserves mention alongside other athletes
in the sports pantheon.
Tragic hero or author of his own fate? You decide:
30, 1960: Diego Armando Maradona is born in Avellaneda,
just outside Buenos Aires, to Doña Dalma and Diego
Maradona Sr. According to a popular legend, baby Maradona
came out of his mother's womb and into the real-world kicking,
prompting Doña to scream out, "GOOOOOOOOOL".
Living in poverty in Villa Fiorito, a shanty suburb of Buenos
Aires, Maradona is given a soccer ball by his uncle Cirilo
on his third birthday, thus marking the birth of a soccer
Dec. 5, 1970: A 10-year-old Maradona tries out for
Los Cebollitas, a junior team of Argentinos Juniors, one of
the biggest clubs in Argentina. Maradona makes the team and
Los Cebollitas go on to reel off an amazing 136-game unbeaten
20, 1976: Ten days short of his 16th birthday, Maradona
makes his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors. In 1978,
the club wins the Argentine championship and Maradona finishes
as the league's top scorer with 22 goals.
27, 1977: Maradona makes his senior debut for the Argentine
national team in a 5-1 win against Hungary. He would go on
to play 91 games for the senior side - including 21 games
in four World Cups - scoring 34 goals.
Maradona is passed over by the national team for the 1978
World Cup staged in Argentina because the coach felt he was
too young (18). Millions of Argentines are outraged by the
snub of their soccer hero. Argentina, however, goes on to
beat Holland 3-1 in the final to win its first World Cup.
On the outs with the senior team, Maradona captains Argentina's
junior side to victory in the World Youth Cup in Japan. Months
later, he is named South American Player of the Year, an award
he would also win the following year. By year's end, he forces
his way back into the senior team, scoring his first goal
against Scotland in Glasgow.
Maradona: "When I
wear the national team shirt, its sole contact with my
skin makes it stand on an end." (CP Photo)
22, 1981: Makes his debut for Argentine powerhouse Boca
Juniors, the club he supported as a boy, by scoring two goals
in a 4-2 win for Boca. He goes on to score 17 goals in leading
the Buenos Aires club to the league title.
Marks his World Cup debut by scoring two goals in a 4-1 win
for Argentina over Hungary in Spain. His first World Cup campaign
ends in disgrace, however, when he is red-carded for hitting
Brazil's Dirceu in the genitals during the quarter-final.
Joins Spanish club FC Barcelona, at the time one of the wealthiest
soccer clubs of the world, following a record-breaking, £3-million
Maradona begins to tread down a destructive path in Spain.
He becomes entangled in a war of words in the Spanish media
with coach Udo Lattek, suffers several injuries that regularly
keeps him out of the lineup, and starts to live the Hollywood
lifestyle he would later become famous for by indulging in
Barcelona's nightlife and developing a cocaine addiction.
Feeling he's more trouble than he's worth, Barcelona sells
Maradona to Italian club Napoli in 1984 for a new record transfer
5, 1984: Months before the season begins, 80 000 people
pack into Naples' Stadio San Paolo for the arrival of the
team's saviour. Maradona arrives on the field in grand style
via helicopter and is officially presented to the Napoli fans
as his Italian soccer journey begins.
16, 1984: Maradona makes his debut in Italy's Serie A
for Napoli in a 3-1 loss to Verona. He goes on to score 14
goals in 30 games that season. Napoli finishes in 8th place.
The year before his arrival, Napoli barely escaped being relegated
into Italy's second division.
1986: Maradona finishes the season with 11 goals as Napoli
finishes in third. Thanks to Maradona's outrageous skills,
the southern Italian club instantly becomes a soccer power,
breaking the stranglehold of domination northern Italian teams
historically enjoyed in Serie A.
1986: Maradona's greatest triumph came at the 1986 World
Cup in Mexico. After establishing himself at club level, the
Argentine star was determined to show the world what he could
do in international competition. In seven games, Maradona scored
five goals in the tournament as Argentina defeated West Germany
in the final to claim its second World Cup. However, the moment
that defined Maradona's career was his two-goal performance
against England in the quarter-final. Maradona snapped a scoreless
tie and pulled the wool over the referee's eyes by punching
the ball into the English net, a goal he later claimed was guided
by God's hand, leading the goal to forever be remembered as
"The Hand of God." Amid vehement protest, the disputed
goal stood and England reeled. Maradona took full advantage
three minutes later, bursting into English territory and slaloming
his way around defenders before beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton
for a dazzling goal and a 2-0 advantage. Some observers say
it was the greatest goal ever scored in soccer.
1987: Maradona scores 10 goals in leading Napoli to its
first-ever Italian league title and the Coppa Italia trophy.
In three seasons, the Argentine maestro single-handedly turned
the club, long one of the also-rans of Italian soccer, into
a power. The parties and street parades last in Napoli for five
days. The south rises again! The following year, Maradona finishes
as the league's top scorer with 15 goals and Napoli finishes
in second place. In 1989 they finish in second and win the European
UEFA Cup, before Maradona delivers Napoli its second league
title in 1990. Maradona leads Argentina to victory over Italy
in Napoli in the 1990 World Cup semifinal before losing 1-0
to West Germany in the final. Maradona is top of the world -
a lofty height from which to fall.
March 1991: Maradona receives a 15-month ban from the
Italian league after testing positive for cocaine. The downward
spiral of Maradona's remarkable career begins as he leaves Italy
in disgrace. During his stay in Italy, his image becomes tattered
by revelations of his drug abuse, a decadent lifestyle that
sees him become embroiled in vice and corruption scandals, and
his friendship with members of Naples' seedy, crime bosses.
In 1990, local woman Cristina Sinagra files a paternity suit
against him (which she wins in 1991) after Maradona married
his teenage sweetheart Claudia Villafane. Following the ban,
he returns to Argentina but is arrested for cocaine possession
and ordered by a judge to undergo medical supervision to kick
his habit. He doesn't play soccer for almost two years. Napoli
is never the same as they return to being punching-bags for
the northern teams.
1992: Joins Spanish club Sevilla but only plays 26 games
after falling out of favour with former Argentine national team
coach Carlos Bilardo. Returns to Argentina in 1993 and signs
up with Newell's Old Boys but his stint there is an embarrassing
one. With his weight ballooning out of control, he's a shadow
of his former self.
1994: Scores for Argentina against Greece at the 1994
World Cup. Four days later, he's sent home in disgrace after
testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine and is slapped
with a 15-month ban. He never plays for Argentina again.
August 1997: Maradona fails a drug test for the third
time in his career during his second stint with Boca Juniors.
With his weight and health problems mounting and his skills
totally deteriorated, Maradona retires from soccer on his 37th
Argentine fan Jose
Lescano prays to support Diego Maradona outside the private
clinic in Buenos Aires where the 43-year-old soccer star
was hospitalized for 12 days in April. (AP Photo/Daniel
2000: Maradona is admitted to a hospital in Uruguay with
a severe heart condition due to cocaine use. Doctors say he's
taken so many drugs it's a miracle he's still alive. He moves
to Cuba in 2002 where he spends most of the next two years undergoing
drug treatment and hanging out with Fidel Castro.
Dec. 11, 2000: A furious Maradona walks out of an award
ceremony in Rome before his great rival Pele gets up on stage
to receive recognition as the greatest player of the 20th century.
The two players ended up sharing the honour, even though Maradona
initially won the award as voted by fans from around the world
on FIFA's official website. In order to avoid a furor from Brazilian
fans and Pele himself, FIFA presented Pele with a parallel award
based on votes by FIFA officials, journalists and coaches.
Maradona meets Diego Armando Jr., his son from Cristina Sinagra,
for the first time in 17 years on an Italian golf course.
Maradona had refused to recognize the child as his own until
Italian courts confirmed the boy was his with DNA tests. Diego
Jr. tricked his way on to the course by claiming he wanted
information on golf lessons. The 17-year-old approached Maradona
who tried to escape on a golf cart, thinking he was an autograph
hunter. However, Diego Jr. identified himself, the two hugged
and had a long chat.
April 18, 2004: Maradona is hospitalized in a Buenos
Aires clinic. The nation of Argentina prays for his recovery.