Diego Armando Maradona, one of the greatest, if not the greatest footballer ever to live. Died yesterday, November 25th 2020, aged 60. The over-infectious, over-sized, over-egoed, superstar, known globally for his achievements in the beautiful game, playing at the highest level, doing the most amazing things, winning the best trophies, in a style with technique and skill seen never before, will live long in the memory for those that got to witness him at his very best.
A life not without troubles and trauma, they say behind every genius is a madman, Maradona died of a heart attack, a man who seriously abused his body in later years especially, but what a career he had as a youngster, an Argentine hero, a legend that will probably never be surpassed in his homeland. From being kicked out of a World Cup in 82 to his hand of god v England, that amazing goal of the century, and winning it (some say on his own) in 86, to missing a penalty in 90 before reaching the final which would eventually end in tears against West Germany, to scoring that thunderous strike in 94 against Greece, celebrating like a man possessed, and being thrown out of the competition hours later failing a drugs test. Turmoil, talent, ludicrous, loco… El Pibe de Oro had it all.
I wanted to do you a tedious ‘Nottingham’ link to celebrate his life. After all this is the Nottingham Sport website and Diego Maradona, formerly of Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla during his time in Europe, probably never even set foot within the county of Nottinghamshire on his travels throughout the UK (someone may be able to rectify that?), although we could certainly call him the Robin Hood of football.
But there are a couple of links that spring to mind, one you might know of course is that Gedling born Steve Hodge, a former Forest player who played for England in Mexico that day in 1986, was the man who swapped shirts with Diego Maradona after his double sunk Bobby Robson’s side at the Quarter Final stage. Some say the most prized football shirt in the history of football ever. Locked in the vault of a local boy prior to being ‘borrowed’ by the National Football Museum.
But one ‘Nottingham’ link, not many are aware of, is the time a 22-year-old Maradona, then the highest priced footballer on the planet, played for Barcelona against Nottingham Forest in the rain at the Nou Camp.
22nd August 1983 in a pre-season friendly, the Joan Gamper Trophy, hosted by Barca annually since 1966, still played to this day, that year the likes of Anderlecht, Borussia Dortmund and Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest were invited to Catalonia and Forest would face Cesar Luis Menotti’s team in ridiculously soaked conditions at a half-packed stadium ahead of the 1983/84 campaign.
Forest in all yellow, Barcelona in famous blaugrana, the home side would take the lead on 36 minutes when Marcos Alonso, father of the Chelsea left back, a Spanish international forward himself, cut inside to slide left footed past Hans van Breukelen in the Forest goal.
As conditions worsened in the second half, Viv Anderson aggressively jumped in to ‘put one on’ Maradona and although the England international won the ball cleanly, Diego then nicked possession from Colin Todd, ran past him leaving Anderson in his tracks too and around Kenny Swain before trotting past van Breukelen to pass home into an empty net left footed. A goal on 73 minutes that only Maradona could score, the fact that the pitch was unplayable made it even more incredible, the ball wouldn’t move on the soddened surface, Maradona would often flick it up, do kick ups and play his passes from there, a duck out of water for many, Maradona simply glided like a swan.
He continuously teased and tormented Forest who’s players continued themselves to (attempt to) kick him across the park, this remember was a 1980’s pre-season friendly. There was no ‘going easy’. Ian Bowyer who captained Forest that day, saying after Maradona’s stunning solo effort “He picked the ball up about 25 yards from our goal and in the space of ten yards went past a couple of us. Once he was in the area it was either going to be a penalty or a goal. If anybody had touched him he would have ended up in Madrid.”
Barcelona with Allan Simonsen and Bernd Schuster in the side won 2-0, but after the game there was only one shirt to swap. Kenny Swain the lucky man, Brian Clough had earlier told Kenny to ‘get his shirt’, great advice from the great gaffer who later met Maradona in the tunnel post match, telling the talented young man who understood no English “you might be able to play a bit, but I can still grab you by the balls” before casually grabbing the genitals of god, and walking across the water back to the away team dressing room.
The video above shows the two goals in the match verses Nottingham Forest whilst the video below shows ‘every’ magical touch of Diego Maradona as Barcelona win 2-0 in the Joan Gamper Trophy.
“As a boy I remember my first holidays to Spain, we always went to the sports shop on the last day of the holiday and my dad would buy me a football shirt, back then the shirts were ‘knocked off’ versions, the type you would see on a market, the days before players names were written across the back, but these had the names written on the back. My first shirt was Emilio Butragueno no7, the Real Madrid legend they called the vulture, the second year I went back to the same place, the same shop, this time I chose Diego Maradona and his no10 Argentina shirt. Ten years old, I knew what he did to us in 86, but back then, a boy having watched the best player play, I just wanted to wear the shirt worn by the very best.”
“Every child my age was at some point Diego Maradona in the garden, park, street corner or field with a ball at their feet, a role model that no matter where you are from, will always be remembered for what he did. By playing football like no other, by bringing joy to those watching. Rip Diego, a flawed genius who we all in England just hated to love”
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @FCBarcelona the world’s first ever £3m footballer Diego Maradona.