Maradona – God with a touch of the devil!

I became a TV sports fan during 1985-86. Those were glorious years.

1985 started off with a bang, with India winning the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup. The Indian team’s victory lap on Ravi Shastri’s Audi (the player of the Series) is a moment that I cherish to date. And this win was against Pakistan, making it all the more special.

But, 1985 was not done yet. Boris Becker, a 17-year-old unseeded German, managed to win the Wimbledon. With his summersaults, big serves, and attitude, he ushered in a youthful, colorful decade of tennis. Wimbledon had just birthed a new star to succeed Bjorn Borg and the mercurial McEnroe.

1986 began with a shocker. Requiring four runs off the last ball, Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a six to win the Sharjah tournament. India- Pakistan matches always have an edge to them, and this finish drew frenzied reactions across the globe.

A couple of months later, Kapil Dev put the smile back on our faces. He led India to a pristine win over England at Lords. This was India’s very first Test win at Cricket’s hallowed ground. Life was looking good again.

And these are just a few nuggets. The mid-eighties saw some fantastic sportsmen and women. Not only were they gifted, but they had an edge to their character, adding to the drama.

All said, though, the mid-80s belonged to Diego Maradona. Maradona had genius footballing skills. He would also do anything to win – as the infamous “hand of God” episode proved. He would score a masterly goal one minute and fake a fall (and request a penalty!) the very next minute. The world loved him. Here was a man with a God-given gift and a touch of the devil in him. We had a superstar in our midst!

He won Argentina the World Cup in 1986. 1986 also was the first year Indian fans could see the entire world cup live on TV. I suspect he added many, many millions of new football fans that season.

The Maradona saga continued in 1990. We love to root for a gifted, imperfect superstar – and if he’s the underdog, even better! Would Maradona pull out another World Cup win? We hoped so – and prayed too. He brought his team to the final with sheer will and energy. But, Argentina lost the finals – of all things to a late penalty. Maradona burst into tears; it was an emotional end to a marathon campaign. And yet, that campaign remains a favorite. It’s a testament to the magic that one man can affect on the sports field. It reminds us of why we watch Sports.

Post-1990, Maradona, the sportsman, faded away. News of an arrest or ill-health would appear sporadically. I’d be instantly transported back to the time when Maradona turned lay viewers like me into connoisseurs. That’s a rare gift. Imagine watching a Federer backhand or a Dhoni helicopter shot. Life turns into a party. Maradona did that every match.

Maradona taught millions like me to love sports. For that, I am eternally grateful. While he is no longer with us on earth, his stories will stay forever.

3 comments

  1. We came to know Football mire through DG and his Jersey #10.More than any sportsman in the world of Football, He created his own style which made most of us to follow him in 80s..
    Thanks, Subra for sharing.

  2. Brilliant, Subra. Thanks for re-living those memories for me.
    Indeed, ’85-’86 was a tumultuous year. Aside from all these sporting events you’ve recounted, in January ’86, the space shuttle Challenger also exploded with a crew of 7 who “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of god” as president Reagan so eloquently put it.
    Some of these events left an indelible mark on an easily impressionable mind that I had then. And with Maradona’s passing, along with a sadness for all the memories he gave, the ‘hand of god’ comes to mind. For all the genius in him, he was after all still fallible. Hope he finds eternal peace.

  3. Brilliant Subra what a nostalgia.. on a lighter note the best tweet I saw from the God on twitter, “got my hand back 😀”

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