There are many sportsmen and women and many showbusiness stars that we would all love to see ‘perform’ live. Frank Sinatra would have been top of my list.
I managed to see George Best play in his prime for Manchester United and I have seen Christiano Ronaldo a few times but the two footballers I would love to have seen play live are Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Messi of course remains a possibility particularly if he ends his career at Manchester City.
Maradona was a genius on the pitch and his second goal against England in 1986 in Mexico was one of the greatest goals ever scored in a World Cup fixture. In England his reputation was tainted by the infamous ‘hand of God’ goal and he could have earned such respect throughout the world if he had displayed true sportsmanship in that moment. To me it does matter how you win but probably that is an old-fashioned view. With football as in life, times are different and cheating be that diving, conning the referee or using someone to get what you want for your own personal gain are increasingly a part of modern day living.
Maradona was a national hero in Argentina and also in Italy where his contribution to Napoli was immeasurable. Not only on the pitch but off it where his support for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society was legendary. He even insured himself to play in a charity match to raise funds for a boy with severe health problems who would not have lived without Maradona’s intervention. 10,000 people turned up to watch the match on a mud patch.
It is rare that days of national mourning are held for a footballer, but Maradona has received that honour. Across Europe clubs held a minute’s silence or a minute’s applause and all were impeccably observed. Some of the greatest players to grace his era and since have had nothing but good things to say about Maradona the man.
Like George Best Maradona was not without problems in his personal life. He played for longer than Best and retired at the age of 37. He went on to receive a suspended jail sentence for shooting at journalists with an air rifle and was beset with alcohol and drug related problems. He lived his life under constant scrutiny and never really adjusted to that.
His death has sparked debate again as to who the greatest footballer whoever played the beautiful game is. Four names dominate the debate…Maradona……Ronaldo……Pele and Messi. You could make a powerful case for each of them but for me it has to be Messi.
Modern day football is very much a team game and that makes it more difficult for individuals to dominate a team be that a club or national team in the way they have in days gone by but I hope I am wrong.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
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Photo credit – Alfredo Capozzi / Courtesy HBO