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La Paternal, the most Maradonian neighborhood in Argentina, barely resists the 'messimania'


A few days before the World Cup final against France, many residents say that "Messi is a phenomenon, but the best player in the world is Maradona"

Since Tuesday, few Argentines have been able to think about anything other than the World Cup final.



Captained by Lionel Messi, the entire South American country is excited and there are many children who attend the last week of school with the Flea shirt under their overalls or who kick a ball dreaming that one day they will make it to the national team.

The victory of the Albiceleste in the Copa América in 2021, the audacity of the 10 on and off the field of play and the general belief that this will be their last World Cup have united Argentina behind Messi like never before.

The fervor for the captain has even conquered La Paternal, the Buenos Aires neighborhood that has made the cult of Diego Armando Maradona part of its identity, but has not yet broken down the most difficult barrier: that the man from Rosario emerges victorious from the eternal comparison between the two stars of Argentine soccer.

"Messi is a phenomenon, but... he is the best player in the world," says Mauricio Montegrosso, a 52-year-old resident of La Paternal, pointing to one of the Maradona murals painted on the walls of the Argentinos Juniors stadium.

“Let's hope that Sunday is given to us, let's hope so, but Diego will always be Diego.

He was the people, he killed the entire team, all of Argentina behind his back.

He played however he was, even injured, like in Italy, when he played with an infiltrated ankle”, agrees the retired Hugo Juárez, who for more than three decades was in charge of a neighboring building where Maradona's older sisters still live, a few meters away. of the stadium.

"Messi is only now what we wanted him to be, but it is late, very late, 35 years," adds Juárez.

— And if Sunday is given to Argentina?

— It could be... Maybe it's not too late, he answers, after a few seconds of doubt.

A restaurant in the La Paternal neighborhood, with T-shirts and images of Maradona on its walls. Guadalupe Aizaga

A small altar in honor of Diego Armando Maradona in La Paternal.Guadalupe Aizaga

A woman and a child walk down one of the streets of La Paternal.

Guadalupe Aizaga

Murals in honor of Maradona, around the Argentinos Juniors stadium. Guadalupe Aizaga

La Paternal was the first Pelusa neighborhood outside of his native Villa Fiorito, where he made his debut in Primera and began to forge a myth that would have worldwide reach.

Almost half a century after his arrival, there are many residents who remember him and the streets are full of tributes: drawings, altars, photographs, graffiti, statues, businesses named in his honor, the vehicle in which he traveled for his matches with the inferiors , the house in which he lived turned into a museum and even a sanctuary with the objects donated by the fans when he died.

Instead, there are no visible signs of


, except for some Qatar 2022 jersey.

“I played with Diego in Argentinos and then I faced him when he was in Communications.

As a boy it was impossible, nobody stopped him”, recalls Tato Lenose, owner of a tavern one block from the stadium decorated with photographs of Maradona and autographed shirts of Bicho players.

"Messi plays phenomenally, but Diego... he was unique, look," he says before grabbing the television remote and showing a video of the 1986 World Cup, the last one Argentina won and with which Maradona conquered everyone's hearts forever. the country.

The statistics tip the balance on Messi's side, but that title that separates them and the epic figure of a Maradona who concentrates the best and worst of Argentina like few others explain the resistance in the most Maradonian neighborhood in the country.

Those who dare to declare their unconditional love for La Pulga are mostly women and under thirty.

Altar in honor of Diego Armando Maradona in his sanctuary in La Paternal. Guadalupe Aizaga

Posters, images and t-shirts of Argentinos Juniors, inside the Maradonian sanctuary.Guadalupe Aizaga

Followers of the Argentine soccer player in his sanctuary. Guadalupe Aizaga

General view of the Maradona sanctuary in La Paternal. Guadalupe Aizaga

"Maradona was very nice, he lived one block from my house and played in the street with my twin sons, who are his age," recalls Myriam Gargaglione, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years.

“I really like Maradona, but more Messi.

I love Messi", he says, lowering his voice, like someone confessing a secret, before revealing the reason: "Maradona was provocative, excessive, addictions lost him... Messi is a jewel, a very good guy, a family member", says Gargalione when comparing both popular idols.

At the gates of Maradona's sanctuary, a twenty-something from Mendoza tells his father that this is the first time he has felt something like this for a national team.

—And the 1986 World Cup? Italy? The broken illusion of 1994?

— Dude, I was born in 1995.

The father wanted to enter the sanctuary to thank Maradona.

The son, to ask the soccer god for help for Sunday.

Eight years ago Argentina also reached the final.

The Germany of 2014 was as frightening as France today, but the illusion that this Messi arouses in his native country is much higher than what he aroused then, when many branded him a cold chest.

That insult has been put into a corner, even in the Maradonian Paternal.

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Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2022-12-17

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