(CNN Spanish) -
(CNN Spanish) -
Diego Armando Maradona is so important to Argentines that in 2013, when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis, the star's phrase became famous: «The God of soccer is Argentine, and now also the Pope« .
One of his nicknames is D10S, a number that he immortalized in the Argentina team and that no one has yet been able to fill, lifting a World Cup again.
In the debate about who is the best in the history of football, Maradona wins in his country, but for his compatriots "El Pelusa" is not only the best footballer, but also the Argentine par excellence, with his virtues and flats.
The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, decreed three days of national mourning starting this Wednesday for the death of the former soccer player, the Presidency reported in a statement.
In addition, he is veiled at the Casa Rosada, the presidential headquarters.
The match between Boca Juniors and Inter for the Copa Libertadores, which would be played this Wednesday, was postponed as a sign of mourning.
In honor of Maradona, more than 10 songs have been made that are part of the Argentine soundtrack and great writers dedicated lyrics to him.
Why is Maradona so important in Argentina?
From passion to religion
"Today a part of me died ... I think there are many people who believe the same thing, that with Diego's death a part of us left," said Juan Pablo Varsky, an experienced sportscaster and presenter of CNN in Spanish.
It is the feeling of many Argentines who grew up with their goals and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, or who grew up listening to their parents talking about the goals and the 1986 World Cup. Maradona's passion for football, Varsky explains, was absolute: "Nobody loved football like Diego Maradona."
1 of 20
Diego Armando Maradona was one of the great icons of Argentine football.
He was born on October 30, 1960 and died in Buenos Aires on November 25, 2020.
2 of 20
Maradona was born in the Villa Fiorito area of Buenos Aire.
He was a "little kid from the slums," according to Fernando Signorini, his former fitness coach.
(Credit: Allsport UK / Allsport)
3 of 20
Before turning 15 he was signed by the local team Argentinos Juniors.
There he made his debut in the first division days before his 16th birthday.
(Credit: / AFP via Getty Images)
4 of 20
According to Maradona, soccer was his "salvation" that lifted him and his family out of poverty when he rose through the ranks of Argentinos Junior and Boca Juniors.
In this photo, Diego appears with his parents on the beach.
5 of 20
In this photo, Maradona celebrates on the shoulders of his teammates from the Argentine youth team the victory of his team 3-1 against Russia at the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on September 7, 1979. (Credit: Allsport / Getty Images)
6 of 20
After 2 years of prowess with Boca Juniors, Maradona became the top attraction of his country's soccer team, landing at FC Barcelona in Spain in 1982. (Credit: JOEL ROBINE / AFP via Getty Images)
7 of 20
Then his golden age would come when he arrived at Napoli in Italy.
There, with the participation of the Argentine ten, Napoli won an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup.
Here, Maradona in 1989 in the 1989 UEFA Cup final. (Credit: Simon Bruty / Allsport / Getty Images)
8 of 20
In 1986 he reached the peak of his career with the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. At the age of 26, the young and talented southpaw led Argentina to the second World Cup in their history.
(Credit: AFP / AFP via Getty Images)
9 of 20
Maradona in the 1986 Mexico final. (Credit: STAFF / AFP via Getty Images)
10 of 20
Diego scored 2 goals in a historic quarter-final performance against England.
That day the famous "Hand of God" was born.
In this photo is the moment before Diego Maradona pushes the ball with his hand and scored the goal that he called 'The hand of God'.
11 of 20
But fame and money led him to lose control.
In 1991, he lost his first drug test for cocaine.
As a Napoli player at the height of his addiction, Maradona says he held parties from Sunday to Wednesday, but would return home and lock himself in the bathroom to hide from his daughters, who were little girls by then.
(Credit: Allsport / Getty
12 of 20
An angle of an iconic celebration: Maradona yells as he celebrates Argentina's goal at the 1994 World Cup against Greece (Credit: DANIEL GARCIA / AFP via Getty Images)
13 of 20
In this photo taken on July 1, 1994, Maradona arrives with his wife Claudia at Boston's Logan International Airport from Dallas, Texas, after being suspended by FIFA after failing the doping test.
(Credit: GEORGES GOBET / AFP via Getty Images)
14 of 20
After a brief return to Boca Juniors, Diego Maradona said goodbye to football in 1997, leaving behind a great legacy in world football.
(Credit: DANIEL LUNA / AFP via Getty Images)
15 of 20
Maradona at his official farewell on November 10, 2001 in La Bombonera (Credit: FABIAN GREDILLAS / AFP via Getty Images)
16 of 20
Maradona supports Argentina at the 2006 World Cup in Germany (Credit: DANIEL GARCIA / AFP via Getty Images)
17 of 20
Maradona, Argentina coach in 2010, talks to Lionel Messi before a match at the World Cup in South Africa (Credit: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP via Getty Images)
18 of 20
Under Maradona, Argentina was eliminated in the 2010 South Africa quarterfinals (Credit: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP via Getty Images)
19 of 20
Maradona celebrates in an Argentina match at the 2018 World Cup in Russia (Credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP via Getty Images)
20 of 20
Diego Maradona as technical director of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata at La Bombonera on March 7, 2020. (Credit: ALEJANDRO PAGNI / AFP via Getty Images)
It is easy to understand the reason for this statement: a young Maradona, of humble origin, debuted in the first division days before his 16th birthday, was an idol in Boca Juniors between 1981 and 1982, led Napoli to glory and was the undisputed architect of the Argentina's title at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, with the best display of his talent and controversy in a single game: the goal of the "hand of God" and the best goal of the World Cup in the 20th century, according to an online poll from FIFA, in the quarter-final match against England.
For many, he was the most famous Argentine of the 1980s, the symbol of a country.
That passion is part of the Argentine identity in a country where soccer is crucial in the national culture, but that goes to a deeper level than sport.
It `s a religion.
On October 30, 1998, the Maradona Church was founded in Rosario, Argentina, a religion that adores Maradona, his deeds and his words.
This church has 10 commandments (it could not be another number), among which are that the ball does not stain, you have to love football above all things, spread Diego's miracles throughout the universe and have Diego as a middle name or put it on your child.
On its website, the Maradonian Church claims to have "hundreds of thousands of fans."
A human god
But Maradona was not just any God.
Fame led him down dark paths: he tested positive for ephedrine among other banned substances in an anti-doping test at the 1994 US World Cup and was expelled from competition.
After his retirement, Maradona's personal statements and incidents made headlines.
The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano explained it this way in his book
Closed for football
: «Diego Armando Maradona was worshiped not only for his prodigious juggling but also because he was a dirty, sinful god, the most human of gods.
Anyone could recognize in him a walking synthesis of human weaknesses, or at least masculine: womanizer, greedy, drunkard, cheater, liar, boastful, irresponsible.
An Argentine fan at Maradona's farewell in November 2001 in La Bombonera (Credit: ALI BURAFI / AFP via Getty Images)
Maradona's origin is part of his character and charisma: he was seen as a local footballer.
That is why on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, so many poor people were seen on the street firing him, the Argentine sociologist and journalist Pedro Brieger told CNN: “Maradona never forgot his origins, he always talked about where he was born;
Despite being surrounded by luxury, it was never forgotten.
That makes Maradona a popular phenomenon.
Maradona, despite being a legend in life, expressed himself as his thousands of followers expressed themselves and shared their concerns and shortcomings.
«The issue of feeling so close to the most humble in an authentic way makes it possible for the humble sectors to refer to Maradona in an authentic way and not in an artificial way.
And that they forgive him absolutely everything, "said Brieger, who stressed that because he was irreverent, because he fought with power, he was more admired by the common people.
Maradona in politics
Maradona did not hide his political views.
And, in recent times, he did not hide his political aspirations either.
In 2018, he declared to the Clarín newspaper that he wanted to accompany Cristina Fernandéz de Kirchner in a possible presidential formula for the 2019 elections. “I would go in the formula with her.
Fidel (Castro) told me that I had to dedicate myself to politics.
And I would go with her, with Cristina.
I see people suffer, I see people who cannot make ends meet, "said the Argentine at that time.
(Credit: JUAN MABROMATA / AFP via Getty Images)
The former president of Argentina Néstor Kirchner - who died at the same age as Maradona, but in 2010 - was, for the soccer star, "a gladiator, a man who always played it."
Maradona compared Kirchner to "El Che" Guevara.
"The one who gambled for his ideals was 'Che' Guevara, who is my idol, and the truth is that Nestor had many things about 'Che' Guevara," he said after the death of the former Argentine president.
Maradona met in December 2019 with the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, a meeting in which the former soccer player suggested that former president Mauricio Macri should go live in Thailand.
Beyond the most recent images with Cristina Fernández and Néstor Kirchner, and his homage to Peronism, was Maradona consistent with his political views?
He himself knew that he was criticized for his ups and downs.
“Those who don't love me repeat a thousand times that I supported all the political parties that governed Argentina.
They say that I was a Peronist, that I was a radical, that I was a liberal, "he wrote on October 17 on his Instagram account.
And he finished: "And, actually, the one I supported ALWAYS went to my country, no matter who ruled."
Before the Kirchner era, Maradona was already a very active political activist.
According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación in 2013, Maradona supported Fernando de la Rúa when he ran for president in 1999 (although he later criticized him).
Before, in the 1990s, the accolades went to Carlos Menem.
"Dr. Carlos Menem helped me in exchange for nothing, nothing," he recounted in his biography published in 2000, "I am Diego."
And many Argentines still remember when, in 1986, he celebrated from the balcony of the Casa Rosada the triumph of the national team in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The president he was accompanying at the time was Raúl Alfonsín.
Maradona's political projection far transcended Argentina.
Maradona was very close to Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro.
He became an unofficial ambassador for the so-called Latin American left.
He also did not lack praise for former Brazilian president Lula da Silva or demonstrations of support for the questioned president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and the former president of Bolivia Evo Morales.
"No Hispanic-American politician has wanted to be far from this farewell now, nor did they ever want to be far from his presence," Juan Cruz, founding member and deputy director of the Spanish newspaper
after Maradona's death.
Cruz added, referring to a star that crossed all spheres of Argentine life: with Maradona "another Eva Perón was born."
According to a profile of the Pantheon project, from the Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, for its acronym in English), Maradona is the sixth most famous Argentine in the world, based on the number of visits to his profile in the edition in English from Wikipedia.
He is just behind Eva Perón and Alfredo Di Stéfano, and above Juan Domingo Perón and Lionel Messi.
Scorer, celebrity, D10S or simply an Argentine like no other, Maradona has secured a place in the memory of his country.
Because, as one of the followers, Lionel Messi says: «Diego is eternal«.
With information from Luis Rodríguez, Ismael Suárez and Hugo Manu Correa
With information from Luis Rodríguez, Ismael Suárez and Hugo Manu Correa