Maradona-magic, mania, madness to memories
Published : Sunday, 29 November, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 340
It is the summer of 1986. The date to be exact is 29th June midnight local time. The world cup fever has gripped the entire nation. Dhaka's hot, humid and rainy weather has waned in the face of the worldwide football frenzy. Internet and mobile phones were unheard of while accessing foreign television channels were beyond our dreams. And in the midst of all limitations, our saviour Talibabad satellite station took up the challenge to directly broadcast FIFA world cup matches as midnight set in.
By the time Argentina had qualified for the final deciding match, Diego Armando Maradona had turned into a household name in Dhaka. The superstar's epic two goals scored against England had just about turned him into a legend at par with the Brazilian legend Pele.
However, our biggest challenge of the day, for me and my elder brother was how to convince our overtly strict and uncompromising grandmother to sleep in our room since the TV was kept in her room. Watching the game with her at midnight was the same of sleeping with a hungry lion, meaning - no one knows when she would switch off the TV, kick us out suddenly or whether she would switch on the TV at all. My brother had actually taken the risk to convince her.
It took a challenging 24 hours to melt the ice, as she finally bowed down to our demand. The short night hours appeared too long. Finally our nail-biting lingering had come to an end with the BTV's attractive presenter's announcement that we were about to taken to Mexico.
With the FIFA Mexico 86 opening theme, we exited Bangladesh entered Mexico. The reason for drawing such details is because much of Bangladesh had already dreamt Maradona's Argentina as the unendorsed champion -- except the Brazilian fans of Dhaka.
At the tender age of 10, I was neither a supporter of Argentina nor of former West Germany, the team to become the champion meant the most, but on my subconscious mind the name Maradona kept popping up every now and then.
Rather bizarrely, the match commenced and ended as the Argentineans bagged the trophy with Maradona at the helm, and this writer had turned into a staunch, unbending German supporter. Germany has been my team since 86.
Sorry to say, you can change your wife, girl friend, apartment or nationality but there is no room to compromise on your football team.
When Argentina finally won - only one name was heard and discussed everywhere in Dhaka - Maradona. Rest of the ten names of the Argentinean squad had vaporised in the air. The name would prevail over all football celebrities in Dhaka till the 1994 World Cup held in USA.
It won't be wrong to declare, Maradona's gifted football skills coupled with his charismatic boyish charm had given birth to an entire new breed of Argentinean fans in Bangladesh following his world cup victory in 1986. As much the Maradona story is about rags-to-riches, it is also about riches-to-rags. Even though, Lionel Messi has kept the Argentinean dream alive for the 2022 world cup, he and his booters are yet to win it.
Reflecting back to those Maradona - mania days, it is still a mystery for this writer to fathom Maradona's magical powers to cast a spell on us on and off the field. Personally I was never a big fan of Maradona or Argentina, but have always admired his unimaginable speed, passing, ball control and dribbling skills.
The short, stout and the risk taking Maradona, for this writer is the ultimate symbol of Latin one - man - style football, but at the same time he also orchestrated unsporting and controversial methods in his games.
As Maradona kept going from strength-to-strength, he turned even more notorious as a player for drug abuse to personal scandals. By the turn of the millennium, long after his retirement, he frequently came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
His untimed death gives me immense pain. Why Maradona had failed so miserably to live up to the desires of his supporters worldwide? The football world would have always remembered him for the year he had sparked the most - 1986. In the year of his pinnacle of success, Maradona had unquestionably reached superstardom in the football world. Argentina also has a superstar today, but the differences between the two are starkly noticeable.
The point here, there is always a thin red line between a superstar and a legend. Legends never go astray, but superstars do on their road to become legends. To me, Maradona was close to a legend for his football genius, but a little far for his shortcomings, somewhere between a superstar and a legend.
As I was growing up, I heard this question at least a thousand times from our football fans, fools to fanatics, who is the best ever - Pele or Maradona?
I could never understand the logic behind this question.
At the most, the question is all about to establish egotistic football supremacy, either by Argentinean fans over Brazilian fans or Brazilian fans over Argentinean fans here in Dhaka.
Whatsoever, Maradona is history today. I fondly remember his magical football skills on the field. The mania he had generated surrounding him among our football lovers is unprecedented. The madness he had succumbed to is painful. Memories he left behind will always remain sweet and sour.
The writer is assistant editor, The Daily Observer