Diego Maradona. Footballing legend or fat, corned beef munching, coke snorting, hand-balling cheat? For English fans it’s probably the former after his hand balled goal put the England team out of the 1986 World Cup. The truth though is that he’s probably a bit of both. This is another great documentary by Oscar winning Asif Kapadia who bought us equally good docs on Amy Winehouse and Ayrton Senna and lays out his downfall.
Briefly touching on his incredibly poor childhood it quickly whisks through to his status as the world’s best football player just as he was bought by Napoli for an immense fee in an astonishingly insensitive move when the city was rippled financially and overrun with mafia corruption. It’s this period in the eighties through to the early nineties because it’s that decade notably from the 1986 World cup win and the following five years which it really delves into.
At the time Napoli were a bit of a joke as a football team having never won anything but Maradona was on a personal mission and within 3 seasons they were winning both at home and in Europe and add to this Argentina’s World Cup win and he was idolised and Kapadia has found some incredible footage of a city in a near meltdown of hysteria when their team were winning trophies galore. Maradona was a god……and that was the beginning of his downfall. An early press conference for his transfer to Napoli turns into a circus as a journalist asks him about the local mafia ending with the club manager kicking the journalist out (it’s not the only kicking the doc features as there’s an astonishing on pitch karate kicking contest involving Maradona and an opposing team that would put Eric Cantona’s effort to shame!) But inevitably, like Amanda Holden to a cheap PR stunt, he was drawn to the mafia and vice versa.
But probably for the first time this paints Diego Maradona sympathetically showing the extreme adulation he had to endure in Napoli becoming a prisoner in his own home and when the manager refused to let him leave the club the manager also became his jailer. There are shots here that having him looking like a little boy lost at the centre of all the unwanted attention when all he desired was just play football. Having won everything and adored by an entire city he found escape in cocaine as provided by the mob and it’s a mark of the lax dope testing standards at the time that he was so easily able to evade detection caning the coke for the first part of the week before laying off it and training hard for the next few days in the run up to his match on Sunday.
The breaking point was one again a World Cup match when Argentina played Italy…….. in Napoli….and Argentina won. He was reviled in the press, on TV and by the fans who had adored him. It’s shocking how quickly an entire country turned against him within 24 hours having booed him at the start of the game and there’s early signs that this is getting to him when he starts shouting, son’s of bitches’ at the Italian fans. It’s no wonder that he crumbled suffering from mental health problems. But despite this there are moments when he lacks any objectivity about his actions. So the womanizing, the denial for decades of a son he had fathered and perhaps the most shocking is whilst playing with the child he had fathered with another woman he gets the child to blurt profanities into a microphone.
Diego Maradona, despite seemingly having spent the last decade eating his own body weight in lard, remains a divisive figure but his battle with his demons and the pressure of such fame is a warning to others though for home grown English players it would seem only to extend to not getting teenage girls leathered on WKD and instagramming them being spit roasted in a Travelodge.
Here’s the Diego Maradona trailer……..