“If I die, I want to be reborn and I want to be a footballer.”
Calling football ‘the beautiful game’ has become something of a cliché. But all clichés are founded in truth. Diego Maradona is one such truth.
Maradona reminds us all that football, at the end of the day, is nothing to do with trophies, transfer fees, sackings, contracts or tournaments: it’s about the beauty of the game itself.
It is because of footballers like Maradona that you could be airdropped anywhere in the world and never be far away from children playing the sport we love.
You only have to look at clips of the great man warming up, never mind playing a game, to see that he had the same glint in his eye as youngsters competing in their garden or street just because he had a ball at his feet.
For all the clashes, creases and controversies that have seen him branded a ‘flawed genius’, there could be nothing purer, finer-distilled or irrefutable as his utter infatuation with football.
One for the Road
And that’s why we’re all here, really, why I’m sat in front of my keyboard as a sports journalist, why you’re reading this as a sports fan – because heroes like Maradona embody this silly old game that gives us such escapism, passion and togetherness.
Besides, you’d be lying if you said watching Maradona gliding around a football pitch, his feet ablur, didn’t, even if just for a moment, make life a little better.
So, in celebration of one of football’s greatest sons, join us in pouring ‘One for the Road’ here at GIVEMESPORT and reflecting upon a week that will forever and always be Maradona’s.
Trivia of the week
Can you name the five countries Diego Maradona scored his eight FIFA World Cup goals against? Answers at the bottom of the newsletter.
Barcelona’s legendary scouting report
To comprehend the global impact of Maradona’s tragic passing, you needn’t look any further than the mourning in Buenos Aires, the murals and fireworks in Naples, the bowed-heads in Spain and the disbelief in Barcelona.
Such is Maradona’s iconic legacy with Napoli, in particular, it would be easy to forget that ‘El Pibe de Oro’ first plied his trade for the Blaugrana upon swapping South American shores for the bounties of Europe.
Maradona’s game-changing move to Camp Nou was first set in motion by a remarkable scouting report of which we may never see the likes again, essentially opining that the diminutive Argentine was footballing perfection.
‘Extraordinary’, ‘unbeatable’ and ‘complete intelligence’ are just some of the superlatives used in the glowing report of Maradona’s unbounded talent that dated back to 1978 – read the full comments here.
Letter: Hi Kobe. This is world football. I’m writing because I’m struggling with the grief of having lost one of the people I love most and I don’t know where to go from here. What should I do?
Response: Hey world football, I’m sorry to hear that, it’s affected us all.
I’ll be honest with you, I was born in 1999. I know, I’m practically a kid. I never watched Maradona when he was a professional. In fact, I’ve never seen a full 90-minute game in which he was playing.
You could criticise me for having only watched his highlights, but, if anything, I think it speaks volumes about Maradona that even those, like myself, who never really experienced his magic in full have still been so touched.
Maradona is one of a select few individuals who, by way of spreading joy to millions, becomes an icon amongst men and someone who reverberates across generations through the memories they left behind.
If the football lovers of the future only ever see the Maradona highlights as I have, let it show them that this incomprehensible loss to our world is one who brought a happiness and legacy over which death has no constituency.
It won’t bring Maradona himself back, nothing could or can, but there can be no better hug or shoulder to cry on than the gift he left behind: a joy for football and life.
So, world football, embrace his life’s work and know that his ‘passing’ is as much his legend to future generations as it is the departure of the man himself. But then again, Maradona was always more than Maradona.
Elsewhere in sport
Now, albeit fleetingly, we turn our attentions to other events in the sporting world which, although monstrously insignificant by comparison, we hope channels Maradona’s philosophy to never take anything too seriously.
Worrying footage for Mike Tyson
Ah here we go again, 2020 has reminded us all that it’s a raving lunatic by staging a bonkers exhibition match between two pensioners scrapping over the final pack of Werthers Originals.
And if this newsletter has anything in common with one of said pensioners, it’s that it will indeed chew your ear off… only, for the sake of my brain not resembling scrambled eggs, I wouldn’t say that to his face.
Naturally, such is Tyson’s iconic status, many people are backing him to make light work of Jones Jr after transforming his physique into the lovechild of a cobbled street and my draining board.
However, new training footage from Jones Jr has not only made me change my trousers – no, not like that you dirty bunch – but reminded everybody that when the zimmer frames and dentures go flying in, there are no guarantees. Check it out.
Letter: Hi Kobe. My name is Mike. I’ve decided that the chilling-in-my-mansion lifestyle isn’t for me and I want to put my health at risk by slugging it out with one of the most fearsome boxers of all time. Reckon I’ve made the right call?
Response: Hi Mike, thanks for writing in. Being the absolute millionaire I am from working as a sports journalist, I often look out my mansion window and ponder: why don’t I get my head smashed in more often?
Nothing quite beats the feeling of having your brain rattle around your skull like a cricket ball in a washing machine. You don’t get that from eating caviar every morning, let me tell you.
There’s just something about strutting around my marijuana farm, going to pet my pigeons and having a cheeky wrestle with my tiger that makes me want an absolutely-ripped bloke to wallop his knuckles into my temple.
Do you know what, Mike? I’m completely with you, particularly at your age, you need a little spice in your life, nothing dramatic has ever happened to you, everything has always been so boring, you need some excitement.
If there was anything unrealistic about ‘Fight Club’ it was the casting of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton – where the bloody hell was Dame Judy Dench and Sir Michael Caine? 53 years old is the prime of your life!
Go on, call out Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for good measure, those absolute foetuses thinking they can fight when they’re barely out of the cot – you’re not a man until your forehead looks like the Grand Canyon.
So go get em champ and save one of those right hands to shatter my nose like an RPG to a Pringle… Americans understand sarcasm, right? Right???? Though, to be fair, I’ve probably warranted it.
Supercomputer does supercomputing
Ah, computers. The absolutely terrifying, cold-as-stone, floppy, flippy metal things that inexplicably pop up with adverts for the exact Christmas present you just discussed with your friend. Alexa, you God damn perv.
However, when Siri and Cortana aren’t plotting your murder, it seems as though they’re predicting the final Premier League table because what better way to use a supercomputer right now? *Nervously laughs*
The relegation fight, top four chase and title race are nothing that can’t be decided by gargantuan machines that, much like many of our working lives, receive one million instructions per second.
Either that or it’s just someone in the FiveThirtyEight office with a slightly square head who owns a pet rodent and plays an electronic piano. That was shocking, I know, so escape my awfulness by reading the full table here.
Football TV schedule
Friday November 27
Brentford v QPR (Sky Sports Football)
Tranmere Rovers v Brackley Town (BBC Two)
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United (Amazon Prime Video)
Saturday November 28
Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool (BT Sport 1)
Manchester City v Burnley (BT Sport 1)
Everton v Leeds United (Sky Sports Main Event)
West Bromwich Albion v Sheffield United (Sky Sports Main Event)
Sunday November 29
Nottingham Forest v Swansea City (Sky Sports Main Event)
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur (Sky Sports Main Event)
Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Sky Sports Main Event)
Monday November 30
Leicester City v Fulham (Sky Sports Main Event)
West Ham United v Aston Villa (Sky Sports Main Event)
Tuesday December 1
Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid (BT Sport 1)
Atlético Madrid v Bayern Munich (BT Sport ESPN)
FC Porto v Manchester City (BT Sport 3)
Liverpool v Ajax (BT Sport 2)
Wednesday December 2
Ferencvaros v Barcelona (BT Sport ESPN)
Juventus v Dynamo Kiev (BT Sport Extra 2)
Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain (BT Sport 2)
Sevilla v Chelsea (BT Sport 3)
Thursday December 3
AC Milan v Celtic (BT Sport 3)
FC Zorya Luhansk v Leicester City (BT Sport 1)
LASK v Tottenham Hotspur (BT Sport 2)
Arsenal v Rapid Vienna (BT Sport 2)
Top of the stops: Premier League
=1. Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – 4 clean sheets
=1. Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) – 4
=1. Alex McCarthy (Southampton) – 4
=1. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham United) – 4
=1. Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) – 4
Top of the shots: Premier League
1. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) – 10 goals
2. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) – 9
=3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 8
=3. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – 8
=5. Patrick Bamford (Leeds United) – 7
=5. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) – 7
Can you name the five countries Diego Maradona scored his eight FIFA World Cup goals against?
1. Hungary (1982)
2. Italy (1986)
3. England (1986)
4. Belgium (1986)
5. Greece (1994)
Last orders. The bell is ringing. Drink up. Thank you for reading this week’s edition of ‘One for the Road’ and toasting whatever your chosen tipple might be to one of the greatest footballers of all time.
It was Gary Lineker who first popularised the comment that the late Maradona was now in the hands of god; a very touching tribute, of that there can be no denying.
But in reality, what we should be most grateful for is that Maradona touched and shaped the sport we love with his own.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the great man was immortal in the way he navigated life’s twists, turns and cruel realities as if replicating his ‘Goal of the Century’ against England. Alas, none of us are.
But one can’t help feeling that even as the toughest tackle of Maradona’s life came lunging in that, really, he still managed to leap over it because, as Bill Shankly once said, football is more than life and death – and football is Maradona.