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Diego Maradona: One of Soccer's Greatest Players'Every morning that I get up, I should light a candle to the soccer ball.'; -Diego Maradona Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and one of the most popular soccer player's in the world is Diego Maradona, star of the Argentina national team and a professional who has led his team to many championships in Argentina, Italy, and Spain. During the 1986 World Cup tournament, won by Argentina, Maradona gave what was perhaps the greatest performance in all of World Cup History. While a national hero in Argentina, Maradona has also earned a reputation for being outspoken and controversial. In what is probably his last international competition, he led Argentina into the World Cup Tournament in the United States. Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960.
He lived in Lanus, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. He was one of eight children raised in the poor area of Villa Fiorito, one of the roughest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. His father, also named Diego, was a factory worker. His mom, Dalma Franco, was a housewife. Though the family was very poor, there was always food on their table. Maradona received his first soccer ball from his father at the age of three. His father encouraged him to play soccer.
Diego practiced all day and slept with the ball all night. Maradona was soon playing for Argentina's best youth team, Los Cebollitos (the Little Onions). His team was able to win 140 straight games and Maradona was given jersey number 10, the same number worn by the Brazilian star Pele. At the age of ten, Maradona put on a spectacular exhibition during the half-time of a professional game. 'He walked onto the field and proceeded to juggle his soccer ball for the entire intermission, keeping it in the air by bouncing it off his feet, knees, chest, ankles, head, and shoulder as if it were balloon and his body a spring breeze.'; When Maradona was only 15 he signed his first contract with the Argentinos Juniors for $400 a month.
Two years later he became the youngest-ever member of the Argentine soccer team. At the time that they were preparing for being host for the 1978 World Cup. Just before the tournament, coach Cesar Luis Menotti made Maradona the last cut from the team, which went on to win the title. Maradona was so upset he did not speak to Menotti for months, but later he admitted the coach was right in what he did. He said that he was young and inexperienced to cope with the pressures of the World Cup.
After gaining more experience in 1979 when he led the Argentine national team to the Junior World Cup Title and was named South American Player of the Year. Quickly, becoming a national hero, Maradona led the professional team, now the Boca Juniors, to the Argentine national championship during the 1980-81 season. Then, in 1980, Maradona signed a six-year, $12 million contract to play for Barcelona of the Spanish league. The Argentine national soccer team made a deal with Maradona, allowing him to play on the 1982 Argentine Cup if he agreed that he would not leave Argentina until after the tournament. The 1982 World Cup was a disaster for Maradona and the Argentine team. They were eliminated by arch-rival Brazil, 3-1 and Maradona was ejected from the game for a rough foul on a Brazilian player.
He had a hard time winning over Spanish fans, although he scored 22 goals in 36 games and he led the Barcelona team to the 1983 Spanish Cup. In 1984, Maradona's contract was sold to Naples of the Italian League for $10.8 million. He was soon the best player in the top-flight Italian league, raising his team from 12th place to 8th to 3rd in just two seasons and finally winning the loyalty of Naples fans. Maradona returned to the Argentine national team to play in the 1986 World Cup. It was during this World Cup, he became an international superstar. In helping Argentina reclaim the cup it had lost to Italy four years earlier, Maradona scored five goals in a six game effort to forget about his poor play in the 1982 World Cup. Experts called it the best performance in World Cup history.
In the final game of the 1982 World Cup Argentina was able to defeat West Germany. The score was tied at 2 and Maradona had the ball. He was able to somehow thread the ball like a needle through four German defenders, for a pass to a teammate who scored Argentina's winning goal. When it was time to give out the Most Valuable Player award, Maradona received the award. After the World Cup victory, Maradona returned to Naples to lead his club to its first Italian championship in 1987, and its first European title two years later.
In the 1989-90 season he led his team to its second Italian League title. Maradona returned to the Argentine national team for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Bothered by an ingrown toenail he had a difficult time matching his performance of 1986. Argentina lost its first game, but made it to a semifinal showdown with Italy. The game was very emotional, because he had played on the Italian team before, but he still worked his magic. In the end Maradona ran out of magic and was defeated by West Germany, losing the World Cup.
Maradona has become a star because of his great all-around game. Only 5 foot 5 he is able to avoid defenders with quick bursts of speed. He is often compared to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Throughout his career he has made many mistakes. In April 1991 he tested positive for cocaine after an Italian League game and was suspended for 15 months.
He was also arrested for trying to buy cocaine a month later. In the summer of 1993, Maradona announced his retirement. The Argentine team did not miss him much, but when the team was facing elimination from the World Cup, Maradona got in shape and returned to bring the Argentine team to the World Cup. But they were knocked out by Bulgaria. Off the field Maradona lives with his wife, Claudia Villafane, and three daughters in Buenos Aires.
Maradona hopes to coach the Argentine soccer team one day when he is retired from soccer.
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