Sunday, June 1, 2014

Countdown to the Copa del Mundo - "Shadowed by the Hand of God"

ESPN Magazine - "Shadowed by the Hand of God"
by Wright Thompson

"Here are some of Maradona's many transgressions forgiven by the people of Argentina: He drop-kicked an opponent in a game. Photographs emerged of him partying with the Napoli-based Camorra, perhaps the nastiest of the nasty Italian Mafias, just before his Napoli side may or may not have thrown Italy's Serie A championship. He tested positive for coke. An Italian prosecutor charged him with supplying cocaine to hookers. The hookers told unbelievable tales of Caligula-like orgies, fueled with cocaine and liquor. The word "fueled" appeared in a lot of stories, as did "allegedly." A Brazilian prostitute named Susy said Maradona hated condoms and loved sucking her big toe. Cops in Buenos Aires arrested him with a half-kilo of blow and he walked. He ran through four stoplights in Seville, Spain, in his Porsche. Cops chased him for a mile before he stopped. A year later, he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup for performance-enhancing drugs. He allegedly smuggled more than 3 kilos of cocaine to Rome for the Italian mob. He suffered a heart attack after an alleged overdose. He went to rehab. Photographers caught him having coked-out sex parties in rehab. After the birth of an illegitimate son, Maradona refused a relationship with the boy, even after a court ordered him to pay. "A judge has obliged me to pay support," he said at the time, "but that does not obligate me to feel love for him."

He suffered another reported coked-induced heart attack and lived. Back in Spain, blitzed on cocaine and booze, he and two prostitutes got trapped in a hotel elevator, which he kicked until his foot bled. By 2005, he weighed 266 pounds. He was 5-foot-5, which basically made him a square, or, in keeping with the theme, a bale of cocaine. And after all of this, before the last World Cup, the soccer powers in Argentina looked around for a coach, considered all options and then, of course, hired Maradona, a drug addict, to help Messi finally play well for his country. A comparison in American life is difficult, but imagine for a moment that the U.S. Olympic Committee handed Dennis Rodman a clipboard and unlimited authority and told him to take the basketball team to Rio in 2016.

In South Africa, Argentina was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Before and during the tournament, Maradona appeared palpably jealous of his young star. Messi, the greatest goal scorer in the world, didn't score a single time. His coach placed him in the midfield, charged with serving up the ball to his teammates, which is like making Peyton Manning run the triple option."

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