Imagining football without Diego Armando Maradona is almost impossible.
His legend will live forever, warts and all, and the polarising opinions around his chequered past both on and off the pitch will continue to produce the most complex of narratives.
Personally, I feel privileged to have witnessed much of his career, while at the same time feeling disappointed that his astonishing skills were not more readily accessible on Australian television at the time.
Thankfully, much has been captured and collated in a host of documentaries that have attempted to bare all in regards to one of the most skilful and controversial men to have played the game.
George Best, Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Maradona would feature in many football fans’ top five players of all time. Of that quintet, Best and the Argentinian stand out as the flawed geniuses, juxtaposed with three far more stable and reputable men.
Telling Maradona’s story has proven difficult in the past with Argentina’s brilliant number 10 proving ever unreliable in his recounts of key and controversial moments in his life.
For much of that life, Maradona has lied his way through turmoil, cheated on occasion and self-destructed due to a host of poor decisions and self-harming behaviour.
Diego Maradona had quite the fall from grace. (Source: Wiki Commons)
In a new attempt to convey Maradona’s story both honestly and with the player’s full approval, Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia has used over 500 hours of archival and private footage in an attempt to tell us more than we have ever known about the footballing genius.
Kapadia is the director of both Senna and Amy, remarkable films that explored the complex lives of former Formula One driver Ayrton Senna and the talented Amy Winehouse. As such, his new film has sent tongues wagging with such an interesting subject at its core.
I was privileged to be invited to an advanced screening of Diego Maradona on Tuesday and despite enjoying the film, left the cinema feeling somewhat under cooked.
The film is entertaining, no doubt, yet something quite difficult to pin down bubbled away inside me as I took the bus home to Sydney’s hilly northern suburbs.
The line between accountability and sympathy pretty much summarises the now 58-year-old’s life and the film used that motif as a crux around which to build the narrative.
The poor and simplistic life of a young Diego and his efforts to care and provide for his entire family from the age of 15 onward is contrasted with the persona he became; Maradona, the greatest footballer in the world.
A distinct line is drawn between Diego and Maradona; two clearly decipherable individuals with little connection between them, except for the fact that they are housed in the same body.
It was an interesting line to take and did leave me with real sympathy and compassion for a human being turned into something of a sideshow for the masses to ogle, annoy and exploit.
However, the insights into Maradona’s drug addiction, his selfishness in personal relationships and ability to compartmentalise and shelve the parts of his life that he found personally challenging and inconvenient, were also meaningful.
Little attention is given to his play at Boca Juniors (1981-82), nor his disastrous time at Barcelona (1982-84).
The film focusses on Napoli and the footballing impact he had on the city, as well as southern Italy’s eventual about face and denial of the man that had brought it such success; a man who dared challenge the historical power base that lay in the north of the country.
It is a well-made film and worth seeing in my view, however, for those well versed in the life of Diego Maradona, I’m not too sure you will discover much that you didn’t already know.
As would be the case for many reading this column, the hours of footage I have seen on Maradona would undoubtedly surpass 100 and I must admit to entering the cinema wondering exactly what else there was to know about the cocaine-addicted, philandering, hand-balling champion.
I left feeling that there was very little.
There are some unique and private moments that do add layers to our prior knowledge of the man, however as interesting and moving as individual moments were, new insights were few and far between in my view.
Perhaps younger football fans will enjoy the film a little more, learning the history around one of modern football’s most famous players and personalities.
However, I was entertained yet a little disappointed. Perhaps that sums up Diego Maradona’s life quite well.
The football world wanted so much more for him in maturity and retirement, yet from the 1990s on, his life has been undesirably extraordinary.