‘The way he dribbled, the way he moved … Maradona was special’

Diego Maradona – a household name that transcended through generations.

During his 21-year career, the Argentinean was given the nickname ‘El Pibe de Oro’ which means The Golden Boy as he went on to ink his name as one of the greatest players ever.

He played for seven different clubs during his career, secured 91 international appearances for Argentina which he led to the World Cup title in 1986.

Maradona, who represented Boca Juniors, played in Malaysia in 1982 as the South American club went up against a Selangor selection.

Maradona’s almost fairytale-like journey was, however, flawed as he battled with cocaine and alcohol addiction. He was even banned from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine.

Many also remember him for his controversial “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Such imperfection made Maradona human. And his death last night is mourned by every football fan – young and old – across the globe.

Twentytwo13 spoke to several Malaysians who have seen Maradona in action. Here’s what they said:

K. Rajagobal – former international & former national coach

“When he arrived in Malaysia in 1982, he wasn’t a big name yet. But the moment he stepped onto the field (against Selangor Selection), we knew that he was special.

He was such a gifted player. The way he dribbled, the way he moved. Maradona had something special but who would have thought at that time that he would quickly become such a big name in football.

His passing is a very big loss to the football fraternity.

It’s sad that when you recall such memories, recall the might of these footballers, we don’t have proper photographs or videos to document such historic moments. It’s the same with the 1982 match.”

Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan – former international, former FA of Malaysia general secretary, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup venue security officer

“He has this rock star-like status. He was always able to draw the crowds, even as an official or as a guest at the World Cup. Whenever he walked to the stands, the crowd would go wild and he loved the attention.

Maradona received a similar reception when he came to Kuala Lumpur in 2015. He was here to launch the Boby & Maradona Gold Diamond Outlet Launch at NU Sentral Mall. I was MRCB’s executive vice-president for safety and security and the crowd just went wild when he showed up. Everyone was rushing, hoping to meet and greet him.

He was a real character, on and off the pitch. His football skills, despite his size, were just amazing. Football has lost a gem and we will all miss Diego Maradona.”

Datuk George Joseph – former FIFA referee who officiated at the Tokyo Under-20 World Cup match between Argentina and Algeria in 1979

“I had only met him on the field in 1979 and he gave me a funny look before the match started. He was probably wondering who this referee from Malaysia was. In fact, he could have been wondering where Malaysia is!

We met years later and he remembered me.

Maradona was like a bouncy ball. He would fall but get up quickly and didn’t seem to get hurt at all. The late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari reminds me of him … they were both the same size and had strong prominent thighs. You just couldn’t knock them down or hurt them.

I had an intuition when Maradona underwent brain surgery two weeks ago. It’s sad that he passed away.”

Datuk Soh Chin Ann – former international

“In the 1982 match, he wasn’t famous yet but he was really good. His skills … he was a really nippy player.

To me, he was one of the best players in the world. Just look at what he did during the match against England (1986 World Cup quarter finals) … he dribbled past at least five players to score a goal.

There will be no other Maradona. Generations know him and no one will forget him.”

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