“He proved that fantasy too can be effective”: Eduardo Galeano on Maradona | The Background

Monday, November 29, 2021

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“He proved that fantasy too can be effective”: Eduardo Galeano on Maradona

The Background:

 “I am from the left in the sense that I am (…) for the progress of my country, to improve the life of poor people, so that we all have peace and freedom.” […] “We cannot be bought, we are lefties on the feet, we are lefties on the hands, and we are lefties on the mind. That has to be known by the people, that we say the truth, that we want equality, and that we don’t want the Yankee flag planted on us.” Diego Armando Maradona once said so. Better known as ‘El 10’, he openly showed his support to left-wing, socialist and progressive movements and governments in the world and specifically in Latin America. He also openly defied imperialism and colonialism and was a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause saying “in my heart I am Palestinian.” and “I am a defender of the Palestinian people, I respect them and sympathize with them, I support Palestine without fear.”

Uruguayan journalist and one of the most renowned writers from Latin America, Eduardo Galeano wrote many powerful, unforgettable books. Among those books was Football in Sun and Shadow. Galeano used to describe himself as “a beggar for good soccer,” gave the world’s most popular sport all the poetry, passion, and politics it deserves through this book.

In this book he wrote about Diego Maradona and how he spoke out against the powerful and put a target on his back for it. Here are some excerpts from the book:

“It was not so easy to forget that for many years Maradona had committed the sin of being the best AND the crime of speaking out about things the powerful wanted kept quiet.

He was overwhelmed by the weight of his own personality. Ever since that day long ago when fans first chanted his name, his spinal column caused him grief. Maradona carried a burden named Maradona that bent his back out of shape. The body as metaphor: his legs ached, he couldn’t sleep without pills. It did not take him long to realize it was impossible to live with the responsibility of being a god on the field, but from the beginning he knew that stopping was out of the question. “I need them to need me,” he confessed after many years of living under the tyrannical halo of superhuman performance, swollen with cortisone and analgesics and praise, harassed by the demands of his devotees and by the hatred of those he offended.

The machinery of power had sworn to get him. He spoke truth to power and you pay a price for that, a price paid in cash with no discount. And Maradona himself gave them the excuse, with his suicidal tendency to serve himself up on a platter to his many enemies and that childish irresponsibility that makes him step in every trap laid in his path.

The same reporters who harass him with their microphones, reproach him for his arrogance and his tantrums, and accuse him of talking too much. They aren’t wrong, but that’s not why they can’t forgive him: what they really do not like are the things he sometimes says. This hot-tempered little wiseacre has the habit of throwing uppercuts. […] He complained about the omnipotent dictatorship of television, which forced the players to work themselves to the bone at noon, roasting under the sun. And on a thousand and one other occasions, throughout the ups and downs of his career, Maradona said things that stirred up the hornet’s nest.

He wasn’t the only disobedient player, but his was the voice that made the most offensive questions ring out loud and clear.

… When Maradona was finally thrown out of the ’94 World Cup, soccer lost its most strident rebel. And also a fantastic player. Maradona is uncontrollable when he speaks, but much more so when he plays. No one can predict the devilish tricks this inventor of surprises will dream up for the simple joy of throwing the computers off track, tricks he never repeats. He’s not quick, more like a short-legged bull, but he carries the ball sewn to his foot and he has eyes all over his body. His acrobatics light up the field. He can win a match with a thundering blast when his back is to the goal, or with an impossible pass from afar when he is corralled by thousands of enemy legs. And no one can stop him when he decides to dribble upfield.

In the frigid soccer of today’s world, which detests defeat and forbids all fun, that man was one of the few who proved that fantasy too can be effective.”




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