By Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran (Executive Chairman, QI Group; Owner, PJ City FC)
Argentina is a nation more fondly remembered for being the birthplace of the world’s greatest ever football players. Names that frequently come to mind that made football headlines from the 1970s till today such as Daniel Passarella, Mario Kempes, Osvaldo Ardiles, Gabriel Batistuta, Javier Zanetti, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi have always triggered great following among football fans globally, but one name that brought massive attention was none other than Diego Armando Maradona. Although he is no more with us today, it cannot be argued that Maradona remains one of Argentina’s greatest footballers as the pint-sized forward with the ability to electrify the atmosphere. He shone in his native country and in the Italian Serie A league during his illustrious career with Argentinos and Napoli respectively.
Maradona had exceptional vision, passing, ball control, dribbling skills, speed, reflexes and reaction which allowed him to be more maneuverable than most other football players. This brings to mind our own legendary footballer in Malaysia, the late Mokhtar Dahari, who has been often referred to as our own Maradona. Both used their sudden bursts of speed and a powerful swivel kick to create terror in the hearts of their opponents. Both were built powerfully with legs like tree trunks. Their jerseys were also both coincidentally number 10s!
Back to Maradona, he was the best player, besides the legendary Pele, who has ever been in world football. I still remember how he led his country to the 1986 World Cup final, which they won with many suggesting Maradona had captured the prestigious tournament single-handedly, after having scored or assisted 10 of the 14 goals, including his assist for the winning goal against Germany in the final. He scored what was named Goal of the Century against England in the quarter-finals.
Maradona’s story began from the suburbs of Buenos Aires, a boy who came from humble beginnings, who grew up to carry the weight of the hopes and dreams of an entire nation and lead them to glory. Love him or hate him, the world marvelled at the genius of this Golden Boy, which he was often called. A precocious talent, the story of this pint-sized boy should spur and motivate the birth of more Maradonas all over the world, especially here in Malaysia and Asia. Today’s budding footballers should emulate his endurance, strength, speed, coordination and flexibility. Undoubtedly, the legend of Maradona will live on forever.