The feeling was that of being in close proximity to the almighty himself. I had the same feeling of getting a glimpse of the idol at Sabarimala, after trekking up the hill road after all the customary austerities. It is an inexplicable experience.
The king of football is Pele but the god of the game is Maradona. A lot of talented players like Messi and Ronaldo are in the world stage but none of them has gained the ‘god’ status.
Maradona had a certain magic in his feet and he could turn the game into a carnival. The World Cup of 1986 was single-handedly won by Maradona. I was a teenager who got all excited about the ‘hand of god’ and the 'goal of the century’ by Maradona. There was no television at home. I watched the World Cup at a teashop owned by one Valsan at Chembukavu.
In 2012 in Kannur, I experienced first-hand what football meant to Maradona. As part of festivities, a cake was fashioned as a football. Maradona refused to cut it and he symbolically cut the outer part of the ‘stadium’ alone. It told me how much the ball and the ground meant for him. He has the heart of a child. Probably, this forthright approach created all the issues he faced. He is open about things and is very upfront, like having told Pele that he (Maradona) is a better player.
At this juncture, we have to stay focussed on his football and not the issues surrounding it. We have not yet understood his game completely.
(The author is a former captain of the Indian football team)