El Diego, we bow before your Left Foot

El Diego, we bow before your Left Foot
Argentinian football star Diego Maradona greets the public in the "La Bombonera" stadium of Boca Juniors Athletic club in Buenos Aires. AFP

Onmanorama is republishing an article published in 2014 to celebrate the legend of Maradona.

For a generation fed on the explosive exuberance of El Diego, the first brush with international football, or rather its televised incarnation, was Circa 1986. Doordarshan had crept into households with the Asiad 1982 held in New Delhi and gathered momentum with the 1983 World Cup Cricket.

Towards the dying moments of DD's news bulletin, perhaps you might have chanced upon a glimpse of Espania 1982, but there wasn't much to boast about. Argentina bowed out in the second round and Diego Maradona was red-carded for kicking Brazil's Joao Batista in the groin.

But even before televised images swept our drawing rooms, we, as in the Maradona generation, knew about what it was like to be 'benched'.

That was even before the Internet-Gen, who flood the social media with statistics and reactionary expertise obtained from the debris of dotcoms, knew about being 'benched'.

Because Argentine coach Cesar Luis Menotti had the gumption to sideline Maradona for the entire 1978 World Cup.

Despite that, Argentina won at home beating the Dutch in the final.

Cricket then infested the Indian households, its stranglehold still to be challenged locally. Now, Mexico happened in 1986. Perhaps because we didn't have social media as a tool, we dug deep into the nuances of the sport and relished its sublime charm. The percentage of ball possession did not matter, neither did the number of assists or for that matter shots-on-target.

El Diego, we bow before your Left Foot
Argentine soccer great Diego Armando Maradona kicks the ball during a charity soccer match called "Derby of the Heart" at the Olympic stadium in Rome May 12, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

What mattered was the laconic passes that weaved magic on the field, the absolute control that The Left Foot commanded on the ball. It was as if there was a magnetic field that made it stick to the foot of Argentina's greatest sporting hero ever. Now, no debate on that please, we have zero tolerance.

Ask any Belgian or English fan, not the internet-fed ones, but the real soccer lover, and they would vouch for the dazzling artistry of that left foot. It may have wiped them out of the contest, but they were unknowingly becoming the essence of a legend which would be passed on to posterity.

Peter Shilton, who was at the receiving end of the 'hand of God', seems to have toned down his criticism of that after seeing the antics of many, including Arjen Robben, to clinch a penalty or for that matter even a free-kick this 2014 World Cup. And that too on a regular basis.

The voices of protest against that infamous goal drowned in the psychedelic surge of adoration. Germany then were just a tough formality, because Argentina then were not Maradona alone as many thought. It was indeed a formidable line-up, though the Germans did lift their game, only to lose 2-3.

Twenty eight years later, when the two teams meet again to vie for soccer's ultimate prize, there is little in common in the benches of both teams except another deft left foot. Lionel Messi.

El Diego, we bow before your Left Foot
Diego Maradona celebrates Argentina's equaliser scored by Claudio Caniggia against Italy in the 1990 World Cup semifinal. File photo: AFP

In between, seven World Cups have slipped past the La Albiceleste despite an immensely rich array of playmakers at the disposal of illustrious coaches, one of whom is Jose Pekerman, who is now being hailed for the revival of the Colombian team. Maradona himself donned the coach's robe in the last World Cup, only to realise it is a different ball game.

Caniggia, Crespo, Batistuta, Riquleme, Ortega... We can go on and and on till Messi, and perhaps after him another super talent. But Maradona remains our talisman and Argentina provides the Adrenalin rush. Some things never change.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.