Diego Maradona is one of soccer’s most controversial figures, and his autobiography El Diego charts a career of supreme highs and devastating lows.
The book, translated by Argentinean journalist Marcela Mora Y Araujo, chronicles his rise from the Buenos Aires slums to become the world’s greatest player, and World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986.
As a youngster growing up in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona’s outrageous repertoire of skills would leave opponents astonished, and even as a youngster, his talents would draw huge crowds.
Argentinos Juniors were his first professional club, but he would outgrow them and move to Boca Juniors where he won his first trophy in 1981.
After the 1982 World Cup, Maradona joined Barcelona for a world record US$8 million but failed to settle and after frequent disputes with the club’s hierarchy, was transferred to Napoli where he spearheaded their most successful era in the 80s and early 90s.
Throughout this fascinating account of a turbulent and chaotic life, Maradona does have a habit of glossing over certain controversies, such as when he fired an air rifle at congregated journalists outside his home, without adding that he hit four of them, receiving a three-year suspended sentence.
He speaks of ‘vaccinating’ (the word he uses to describe scoring a goal) the English with his two efforts against England in the 1986 World Cup. That match, of course, featured his famous ‘Hand of God’ effort when he punched the ball beyond Peter Shilton to score a controversial first, before netting a sensational second by running half the length of the field. Of that first goal which left England manager Bobby Robson disgusted, Maradona later claimed it had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God".
Sportsmen’s autobiographies can be anodyne affairs, but Maradona exhibits the same passion that he did on the field, chastising those he believes have wronged him (club presidents, opponents, referees and numerous other figures in the game) but speaking of his love and loyalty for certain confidantes.
Maradona’s drug addiction undoubtedly affected his ability to play soccer, and since retiring he has been in and out of hospital as a result of his of years of taking cocaine.
His arrogance can be overbearing at times, and it would be interesting to hear others’ accounts of situations in which Maradona claims to have been wronged, but this is nonetheless a revealing autobiography of one of soccer’s true geniuses.