Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona dies at 60

Above: Diego Maradona at a game in La Plata, Argentina, in February. He suffered a heart attack in Buenos Aires after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain earlier this month. Left: Maradona and his team celebrating Argentina's Wor
Diego Maradona at a game in La Plata, Argentina, in February. He suffered a heart attack in Buenos Aires after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain earlier this month. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BUENOS AIRES • Diego Maradona, arguably the best football player ever whose wild swings in fortune came to personify the flux of his home nation Argentina, has died. He was 60.

Maradona suffered a heart attack in Tigre, Buenos Aires, after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain earlier this month, according to the Clarin newspaper yesterday.

Rising to stardom from a grimy Buenos Aires slum to lead Argentina to World Cup victory, Maradona was a rags-to-riches story in his football-mad homeland and gained the iconic status of fellow Argentines Che Guevara and Eva Peron.

One of the most gifted football players in history, Maradona's pinnacle of glory came when he captained Argentina to win the World Cup in 1986 before plunging to misery when he was kicked out of the 1994 World Cup for doping.

Years of drug use, overeating and alcoholism truncated a stellar career and altered his appearance from the lithe athlete who could slalom effortlessly through teams to a bloated addict who nearly died of cocaine-induced heart failure in 2000.

But he reinvented himself in a stunning comeback in 2008 as coach of the Argentina team, persuading managers that with sheer charisma he could inspire the team to victory, despite a lack of coaching experience.

A magician with the ball - deceptively quick and a visionary passer - Maradona is considered by some as the greatest football player ever, edging out that other great, Brazil's Pele.

Pele, 80, mourned the passing of Maradona after the news broke.

"Certainly, one day we'll kick a ball together in the sky above," he said in a brief statement provided to Reuters by a representative.


Maradona and his team celebrating Argentina's World Cup victory in 1986. PHOTO: REUTERS

Discovered in street kickabouts by the scout for first division club Argentinos Juniors, Maradona made his league debut at 15.

Born on Oct 30, 1960 in the Buenos Aires working class suburb of Lanus, Maradona grew up in the Villa Fiorito shanty town. He was the fifth of eight children of a factory worker.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2020, with the headline 'Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona dies at 60'. Subscribe