In my view the sport that likes to think of itself as the 'beautiful game' isn't so beautiful as it once was. The big football clubs of the world have become play things for the mega rich. The teams in the top league in England are owned by Russian billionaire oligarths, American Businessmen, and Arabian royalty. The fans no longer have a say over who runs their club and their sporting emotions are completely at the mercy of the whim of someone who can live thousands of miles away and has no historical emotional tie to the club. European players fall down at the slightest touch from an opposing tackler like they have just contracted swine flu. Average middle of the road players now earn more in one week what a teacher may see in any year of his career.
The sport which once was the game of the working class man has now become so expensive to go to a game that the working class man is being priced out of buying a season ticket for his family in favour of the corporate clients who will go else where once the team stops winning..
In the 80's though the game was a much simpler sport, it didn't have the mega tv contracts for the top European leagues distorting the uneveness of the big clubs and thhose clubs which had a smaller fanbase or who came from smaller countries. Only the very best players got the big money contracts. And the best players were spread around the world. They played against one another. They didn't play with one another in superteams like the Real Madrid's and Chealsea's of today.
In 1986 when the first football world cup that I can properly remember took place, there was one player that stood above them all in that tournament. He was short, (no he's not Gordon Strachan) and as I was the shortest in my class at the age of 8 I took a liking him to instantly. He was also a genious with a football. He could seemingly control a football like to was tied to his shoe laces.
I'm not young enough to have seen Pele play but for me Diego Maradona was a player that showed what a beautiful game football can be. It helped that he was skillful, but probably also helped that he was Argentinian and was lined up to play against England in the '86 World Cup. I am Scottish and my dad likes to consider himself English even though he's lived in Glasgow since the age of 5. I half suspect its less to do with him being a proud Englishman and more to with the fact that Scotland will never win any of the major tournaments and England have a slim chance of that. As with every year before and since my father was boasting about how well England were going to do in that tournment. Then came Argentina and with it Maradona. In that one game Maradona scored 2 of the best goals I can ever remember seeing. The first goal was outrageous. A player of 5ft 5inches, a little bit podgy in the stomach region out jumps the 6 ft 1 inch English goalkeeper and knocks the ball into the goal with his hand.
It was rediculous. It was illegal. By rights he should have been sent off. But the goal stood. If you were English on that night you were in despair. If you were Argentinian, or Scottish, you were elated. The second goal was even better than the first. England were still trying to comprehend what had happened 3 minutes before when Diego Maradona single handledy dribbled round 6 English players to score again and with it knock England out of the World Cup.
Diego then took what was an average looking Argentina squad all the way to the finals and lifted the trophy. On the football pitch he was genious but off it was flawed. He's had his moments when he has been addicted to cocaine and he's shot at journalists who have come too close to his home.
This video of Manu Chao's song La Vida Tombola highlights much of Maradona's life and doesn't just focus on just the heroic moments although his 2 goals against England are there (around the 1:40 and 2 min mark). I like the song a lot, and it is a tribute to Maradona but I think the fact that Maradona's flawed moments are shown in the video too it makes it all the better.