Maradona “Revolutionary, Hero, Trickster, God!”


On July 5, 1984, something extraordinary happened: on that day, the most expensive soccer player in the world at the time arrived to play for Napoli, one of the poorest cities in Europe. 36 years ago, 85,000 fans took to the city streets to greet the “golden boy.” A car convoy rushes through the coastal city’s streets, bringing Maradona to the stadium for the first time. Finally, he arrived at the San Paolo Stadium, and the enthusiasm of Tifosi Napoli reached its peak. This moment of insanity was chosen by British director Asif Kapadia to start his documentary “Diego Maradona” (2019). Kapadia stops here, at the stadium door, to take us back to the past. It briefly touches on the meteoric rise of Maradona (1960-2020) from a street soccer player in the favelas of Fiorito in Buenos Aires, then with Argentinos Juniors and Bocas Juniors, to a winner of the King’s Cup with Barcelona.

Scene from “Diego Maradona” (2019)

Capadia brings us back to the field and the extraordinary time with Napoli (1984 – 1991) with a clever narrative trick, because the personality of the football player can be best summed up in his contradictory seven years in Italy. With more than 500 hours of scenes, and ten hours with Maradona, Asif Kapadia in two hours presented a documentary depicting the man and the legend at the “Cannes Festival” last year. Without claiming to be Maradona’s fame and greatness as a player, Maradona is undeniable a legend, even for anyone outside the football world. This undoubtedly sparked Kapadia’s interest, as he is a cinematic portrait painter with experience providing documentaries on characters whose lives were unusual, such as Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna (Sina – 2010) and the late singer Amy Winehouse (Amy – 2015).
“If you want to understand the legend of Maradona, you just have to watch the Argentina-England match, because Maradona scored two goals, the first with a hand, and the second by overtaking everyone, and this precisely explains why he is loved and hated at the same time,” Argentine sports journalist Daniel Arcuchi says in the film. The documentary is more complicated than this, and from Argentina’s 3-2 victory over Germany in the World Cup Final in the same year (1986), because he does not judge, argue, or explain, but rather presents Maradona as he is in full character on and off the field. He talks about his accomplishments with Napoli, and also shines a dark side in his life: cocaine, the mafia, the “illegitimate” son, the quarrel in front of the Spanish king, the Falklands War, the love and hate of Italian fans and steroids.

It shines on the dark side of his life as a cocaine addiction

Behind this documentary, there is a clearly thoughtful person who has made an incredible effort to tackle Maradona’s story. Therefore, Capadia chose the Italian years, when the club’s importance, as well as Maradona, increased. He quickly became the most popular player with the public, among them powerful people but outside the law. Many complications accompanied Maradona to Italy, destroying any opportunity to strike a balance between this poor young man and the star who had everything at his disposal. This is the true focus of the movie, which goes far beyond just the biography of a great player on a stadium. This is what prompts Kapadia to make several points in his personal life, and to return to the past whenever necessary but always with precision. The film was able to talk almost in parallel about his legendary performance in the World Cup in Mexico, as well as the parenting problems he was suffering at the time. He did not raise the bone of Maradona nor provided any kind of condemnation. However, that did not prevent Kapadia from explaining that the person most responsible for Maradona’s downfall is Diego himself. Yes, he was exploited in various ways, but he was the one who allowed the bad life, specifically drugs, to lure him.
Diego Maradona’s documentary is the best it has ever been presented on screen, with previously unpublished material and audio recordings. It illuminates an unfamiliar clarity and depth on the player who was worshiped as a god, as well as on man with all his contradictions and problems. The only person who may not have liked the documentary is Maradona himself. He distanced himself from him and was about to demand a boycott. He referred to the sub-movie title “Revolution. a hero. con man. God, ”he said,“ I don’t like the title, if I don’t like the title, I won’t like the movie. Don’t see it, I don’t like the name. I played football and earned my money by running behind the ball. I have not cheated anyone. “If they want to attract the audience, it seems to me that they are wrong.”

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