Maradona divides generations - but he could fund your Christmas turkey
- Credit: Hulton Archive
I’m sure in normal circumstances there would be more fuss made of this weekend’s tributes at many English football grounds to remember the life of Diego Maradona.
While the football world, especially in his homeland of Argentina and in Spain and Italy where he spent most of his playing career, is both mourning his death and celebrating the life of a canny football genius, most people in England old enough to remember 1986 and all that are probably shrugging their shoulders and wondering what all the fuss is about.
In normal times at a packed Stamford Bridge, Villa Park or even Carrow Road I imagine there would have been a fair few dissenters keen to disrupt proceedings rather than show respect as players are set to wear black armbands and assemble for a minute’s applause before games.
Thankfully with no fans in grounds and in an era where football seems to openly back any cause or pay tribute to former players on a regular basis, there won’t be any issues.
How you feel about Diego Maradona does, I think, very much depend on your age.
Today’s footballers are mostly too young to remember Maradona the player but for me and people of my age (I was between seven and 19 when he was playing in four World Cups) he dominated my early years as a football follower.
It’s always sad when someone dies at just 60 and even more so when that person had an impact on your generation like he did on mine.
He was the player, especially after 1986, that we tried to emulate in mazy playground dribbles. He made you want to hang on to the ball and not pass to a team mate and I remember as a boy if you did this and ended up losing the ball you’d be dubbed a ‘Mara-hogger’.
It was ironic, though, that apart from at those World Cups we hardly saw him play – there was no wall-to-wall live coverage of La Liga or Serie A and he only played a handful of games in England. Although as some football fans will remember, he nearly joined Sheffield United in the late 1970s.
I’m glad the football world including in England is paying tribute this weekend to Maradona – football needs to honour its greatest players just like it did with Ray Clemence last weekend.
Clemence’s longevity meant he spanned a couple of generations, even tipping into my young football-watching days. From the man beaten by Justin Fashanu’s goal of the season at Carrow Road 40 years ago to the man appearing in an FA Cup Final as recently as 1987 to the man whose name appeared on the gloves I wore as a child, he is fondly remembered by all.
And it could so nearly have been Clemence in goal for England in that famous World Cup quarter-final in 1986.
In a way Maradona meant more to be than the recently departed Nobby Stiles, one of the stars of England’s 1966 World Cup win. Travesty you may say, but he was before my generation. And I’m sure to anyone in their 50s, 60s and beyond who would have lived through the Falklands War in 1982, having affection for an Argentine footballer who clearly cheated against England is a big no-no. But to someone in their 20s, raised on endless YouTube videos and with unprecedented access to footage of Maradona, he is held in something akin to a cult status.
While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated the YouTube generation, they can also now gorge themselves on football’s history and celebrate sportsmen such as Maradona like never before.
But, the good news is us older generations can have the last laugh. You only had to look at the cultural barometer that is online auction site eBay on Wednesday night to see how many Maradona items were being sold – and you can bet that it wasn’t anybody old enough to remember his cheating 80s antics that was buying them.
One of the weirdest items on sale is something that has been helped by the cult status of another 80s sport villain we love to hate, Mike Tyson.
I remember watching a then 20-year-old Tyson smashing the living daylights out of Trevor Berbick 34 years ago this week to become World Heavyweight Champion.
In that same year popular BBC quiz show A Question Of Sport, then hosted by David Coleman, released a board game version, which has since been a regular sight in charity shops and car boot sales from Arminghall to Attleborough.
In the game are dozens of picture cards, one featuring Tyson. In the last couple of years this has suddenly become highly desirable as it’s thought to be the first time he appeared on a card and, as you may know, Americans love collecting sports cards.
This is deemed to be his ‘rookie card’ and is now worth more than the whole game. Some are on sale on eBay for well over £100.
And now the Maradona card is following a similar path and was already selling at £25 this week – about as much as a frozen turkey for the family this Christmas.
A complete board game that apparently hadn’t been played with went for more than £100 and that was before Maradona’s death had been announced.
While many people of a certain age may have little regard for Maradona or Tyson, they may have a little unwanted nugget tucked away in the spare rooms and lofts of Norfolk that has a new-found value among the youngsters of today eager to connect themselves with these sporting icons.
“Quite remarkable,” as David Coleman himself might have said.