MOSCOW (AP) Diego Maradona rose to fame with his hand, became notorious for what he put up his nose and, these days, is memorable for his extended middle fingers.
Now 57, his firefly frame swollen into a fire-hydrant physique, Maradona was an unavoidable TV and internet spectacle during Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg . The victory gave Argentina’s current team a round-of-16 matchup against France this weekend, but much of the post-match focus was on the retired star.
He shimmied like a windup toy, lapsed into rest mode, then responded to Marcos Rojo’s 86th-minute go-ahead goal with a twin middle-fingered salute to fans. Maradona needed assistance in moving to an adjoining luxury box after the game, but said later on Instagram he was OK .
A look at the life of Maradona, currently a FIFA ambassador:
Raised in a poor area outside Buenos Aires, Maradona was 15 when he made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors in October 1976. He played his first game for Argentina’s national team the following February but was not picked for the 1978 World Cup team, which won the nation’s first world title.
He transferred to Boca Juniors in 1981, scored twice with Argentina against Hungary at the 1982 World Cup, then had 38 goals during two seasons in Spain with Barcelona interrupted by illness (hepatitis) and injury (a broken ankle). Maradona switched to Napoli for the 1984-85 season and led the club to its first two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.
”HAND OF GOD”
Maradona dazzled at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, in the prime of his career at 25. He scored the equalizer in a 1-1 group-stage draw against Italy, then had his most famous game in a quarterfinal against England. Maradona dribbled up the center of the field, and passed wide to Jorge Valdano. Steve Hodge attempted a clearance and the ball lofted into the penalty area. Maradona beat goalkeeper Peter Shilton to the ball and punched the ball in. Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser did not spot the handball and allowed the goal to count. Maradona scored four minutes later on a 60-yard run, dribbling past four players and rounding goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Speaking in Spanish after the game, Maradona said the first goal was scored ”a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
Maradona had two more goals in the 2-0 semifinal win over Belgium and assisted on Jorge Burruchaga’s tiebreaking 84th-minute goal in the 3-2 win over West Germany in the final. From that point on, he was considered alongside Pele as soccer’s best ever player.
Repeated fouling took a toll on Maradona on the field, and he started behaving more erratically off the field. A positive test for cocaine after a Serie A match in 1991, led to a season-long ban by FIFA. He was charged with cocaine use and possession in Argentina in April 1991, and held in jail for a day. A Federal Appeals Court in Argentina ruled in April 1994 that he complied with ordered treatment for cocaine abuse.
He signed with Sevilla after the suspension, and moved to Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina in 1993.
Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, a nasal decongestant that can act as a stimulant, and four related drugs after a World Cup game at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. He was banned by FIFA through September 1995. He returned to Boca Juniors after the suspension and ended his playing career in 1997.
Maradona was hospitalized in Uruguay in 2000, placed in intensive care and diagnosed with high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Blood and urine samples a day later revealed cocaine. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Argentina in 2004 because of his drug problem and spent 2 months in a Cuban drug rehabilitation center later that year. Maradona had gastric bypass in Colombia in 2005 and lost more than 100 pounds.
He led the Argentine clubs Mandiyu de Corrientes in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995, then coached Argentina’s national team from 2008-10, Maradona missed the World Cup draw in December 2009 while serving a two-month suspension assessed by FIFA for a profane tirade at media following Argentina’s final qualifier, a 1-0 win at Uruguay. Argentina lost to Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals, and he went on to coach in the United Arab Emirates with Al Wasi from 2011-12 and Fujairah from 2017 until this past April.
Italian tax police seized a pair of Rolex watches at a news conference outside Naples in 2006 and a pair of earrings worth 4,000 euros (then $5,900) three years later in Bolzano. The news agency ANSA said in 2013 that Italian authorities claimed Maradona’s outstanding tax bill was about 39 million euros ($53 million).
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