Fellow ultras friends, this article opens up with a question. Have you ever watched a football match, before starting turning your sight towards your stand? If the answer is yes, then you’ll easily understand the dimension of what happened, and what we’ve just lost. If not, just put in mind that all the tangible passion you feel from your ultras mates, surrounded by all the socio-political reason you wish and thousands of other reasons, comes from one common thing: the poetry of football.
On November 25th 2020, we’ve lost who many consider to be the greatest poet of all time, Diego Armando Maradona.
Other websites or newspapers will give you the chance to read millions of lines about his football skills, his career and his famous yet controversial life outside the football pitch. In this article we’d like to explain and give an identity to his role and size in the life of all of you, individual fans, living inside the wide football system.
Imagine to being given the task of make an imaginary index of the must-have-features of an ultras. You may be listing all of your main traits, if you have an high consideration of yourself, or more vaguely the ones that defines a person you look up to in the ultras life, your capo for instance. We easily could decree that Maradona owned and showed a large number of this features, more than you could imagine by only thinking of his figure on a yacht, in a debatable psychophysics condition, with a cigar hanging out his lips. Everywhere he played, his memory will last forever as a legendary thought, an entity, an institution. Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s OB and Boca again, because as everybody know, we always go back where we had a good time. Six different clubs, places, passions, one common thought: Maradona represents us! Don’t we all work on our own stands to represent the feel of our club, our people, our beliefs? With his unbridled celebrations, armed with blunt and outspoken way of doing, a great social commitment and fidelity, impeccable and faultless whatever are your political thoughts, Diego could have easily figured in a hypothetical rank of the best ultras of the century. Luckily he decided to live football also inside the pitch, gifting us with memorable performances and moments, and gifting the chance to fall in love with it. Someone has to do the hard job, right?
Diego singing Dale Boca together with 60.000 Boca fans
Diego educating his son the Neapolitan way
Only a well rated scriptwriter could imagine Maradona’s career to explode in a city like Naples, Southern capital city of a passional country such Italy, in the crisp and fizzy late ‘80s. The whole globe, and in particular the “Southern world” was watching a 165cms tall man making his way through the biggest and most important social figures, only helped by two very gifted feet, and an immediate and plainspoken way of life. Billions of hungry mouths finally felt represented by someone, so close to them with both his early life and lately his social ideologies fitting in a perfect wedding. Diego was the sweetest revolution! Who better than the best footballer in the world, born and raised in an extremely poor neighborhood of Lanus, and close to the South American leftist parties (ed, Peronism in Argentina, Castro and Guevara in Cuba, Sanchez in Venezuela) could have given voice to them?
An indirect freekick from inside the box; lately, Juventus wall was discovered to be put around 4.5m. Who would be able to still bend it under the bar?
Roughly pointing out some reasons why we think Maradona could do a better job than most of us, ultras, as an ultra, we’re pretty sure to have the support of the ones with those beliefs. To the ones still lulling a doubt, here’s something that could smooth your heavy judgment over his rock ‘n roll life, between drugs and controversial behavior. Would you throw away a redemption opportunity to save a legendary career, only to cover our hated FIFA with mud? Diego did it, in 1994, inside one of the darkest and gloomiest pages of modern football, catching an opportunity, and putting his reputation on the line.
Clearly close to the cocaine and drugs “world” for at least ten years, Maradona had some troubles participating in the 1994 World Cup, held in the USA. His drug problems, alongside some doping controversies, forced him out a number of countries which made it difficult for him to be a stable component of Argentina national team. Despite not being reported in any book to dates, his participation to 1994 WC only happened through a tacit agreement between his agents and FIFA, willing to hide his doping results at the cost of having him in the biggest football competition. His absence in fact would have been too big, and FIFA was already attacked by millions of fans saying the federation wasn’t defending the show and beauty of football.
A long and silent procedure allowed Maradona to the World Cup, joining a really strong Argentina, looking forward to the final. However, Diego hot temper and nature didn’t slow him during the competition. Knowing the risk he was running, he made a big voice complaining about the crazy FIFA decisions of playing in the maximum heat, and in the hottest time slots, only to allow televisions to transmit the competition in westerners countries. A futile controversy that brought FIFA to reveal the positive results of his doping tests, right before the second Argentina match, giving birth to the memorable picture of D10S, calmly brought outside the pitch by a nurse. His attitude and posture really seem to say: “I’m guilty, but you’re guiltier”; the sacrifice of a son that could have still brought joys to football, in particular to Argentinian people. Would you put yourself in line, your identity, only to screw up one of the federation that we regularly insult in our ultras chants, stickers, arguments? Diego did, and without even wearing specific colors, but only to defend an idea, and attack an already rotten system, twenty-five years ago.
Someone says that we only discover the dimension of someone, when we don’t have him anymore. Will anyone miss the pub version of Maradona? Probably not, unless we’re looking for a goliardic laugh.
Will someone miss Maradona as in idea, as a conviction, as an entity? We’d better ask the ones crying his memory on the streets, in a moment where human contact is our worst enemy. We’d better ask Argentines, a country which went through dozens of economic collapses and social crisis, but always had faith in fùtbol. We’d better ask the ones renouncing to a historical saint, in order to rename a stadium after his figure (ed, Stadio San Paolo, which will newly become Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples).
On November 25th 2020, a man died. Still, a myth was born, and an identity finally found his space, intangible.
Diego Maradona, D10S, louder than us, as ultras as us.