Volume 93, Issue 76

Tuesday, February 15, 2000


Mustangs ride high into the playoffs

Eliminating the competition.

A legend lost to the stars

Track and field teams fine tune for OUAs

Athenas taken to school by Western

A legend lost to the stars

Let me tell you something about one of my sporting heroes.

No, he's not a cereal box staple like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan – I didn't grow up with hockey or basketball. I grew up with soccer and when I was a kid the biggest star around was the Argentinean midfielder, Diego Maradona.

At the height of his career, Maradona was considered the greatest soccer player alive – not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, considering his childhood in the slums of Argentina. I grew up in Trinidad, where there was only one television station. I know there's a few hundred of you that just gasped in disbelief, but it's true.

Every Sunday afternoon, there was the touted "Game of the Week," in which a soccer match from one of the European leagues would be televised. Although we mostly watched English soccer, now and then we would get to see Maradona and his Italian league team, the Juventus, in action.

This was how it started.

Watching Maradona was inspiring – every move was impressive and he led his team to countless victories. It seemed everywhere he went on the field, something spectacular happened. Some of the most exciting soccer I've ever seen was between the Juventus and their arch-rival, Napoli. It carried the same weight as the Montreal Canadiens playing the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Then came the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Argentina, led by Maradona, took the Cup against West Germany. I can still remember the picturesque goals that came from his feet – even a famed bicycle kick off of a corner. For weeks, under the hot Trinidadian sun, I was part of a group of 10 boys at my school trying desperately to imitate that bicycle kick. To an outsider, it may have looked silly, but boys do stupid things to emulate their heroes.

All that time in the spotlight took it's toll – by the early '90s Maradona's brightness was beginning to fade. He was suffering from a drug addiction and the last time he played in the World Cup in 1994, he was reduced to the second string. Even then, during the few moments he played, you could see the glimmer of the greatness he once possessed.

Last week I happened to see a recent picture of him, greatly overweight and still fighting the same drug problem – a distant cry from the man that led Argentina to the Cup in 1986.

Maradona is a testament to the dangers of stardom. At one time he had it all, now he's struggling to simply pull his life together. Many would consider him a weak man for falling from his pedestal. But, consider this question – how would you fare if entire countries and millions upon millions of people looked towards you to carry a team to a greatness beyond most human capabilities? While some may criticize him, I can't think of any of today's top athletes doing any better.

Get well, number 10.

To Contact The Sports Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000