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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The day I first saw Maradona…

A former resident of Naples, Dave Taylor was fortunate enough to see Diego Armando Maradona in the flesh and at his prime
There will never be anyone like him again. Having watched Diego, I can safely say that. The first time I saw him live, Sir Isaac Newton’s celebrated laws of motion were turned upside down as fantasy football came of age.

Napoli were playing League champions Verona in October 1985 at the Stadio San Paolo. The atmosphere in the Curva B was electric, powered by the prospect of more Maradona wizardry. As the teams took to the field, every set of eyes were transfixed by a single moving figure, that of Diego, as he crossed himself and then kissed the grass.

From the first whistle until the last, I, like everybody else, became totally invested in the captain’s game. And it was the crafty Argentine who played a decisive role. First Bruno Giordano scored with a move started by Diego. Just two minutes after half-time, Salvatore Bagni netted with a wonderful free-kick won by El Pibe de Oro.

Then came a moment of magic that will live with me forever. Maradona simply pulled down the ball from a long pass, spun around 180 degrees and while the ball was in the air, volleyed a magnificent lob over Giuliano Giuliani from 35 yards out on the left flank. Incredible.

With Maradona tearing holes in the Verona defence, hurdling tackles and passing defenders like a hurricane, suddenly, one short burst of unbelievable acceleration found the smallest of gaps to exploit for Daniel Bertoni to score the fourth. Two minutes later Eraldo Pecci grabbed the fifth with another assist from Diego.

The sheer degree of focus on him, from start to finish, was awesome. In the space of 90 minutes, Diego Armando Maradona had shown me a new concept of football, a magnetism that still fascinates me 25 years later. Grazie Diego and Forza Napoli!

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