‘We Can Play Ball Together in the Sky’: Maradona’s Sudden Death Shocks Soccer Legends

Arya Hodjat
·4 min read
MARCOS BRINDICCI/Getty
MARCOS BRINDICCI/Getty

Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60, the Argentine Football Association confirmed on Wednesday.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he captained his nation to victory in the 1986 World Cup, scoring two of the most iconic goals in soccer history. The first—dubbed the “Hand of God”—was controversially scored off a missed handball call. FIFA’s website would later dub the second goal the “Goal of the Century.”

Born in a Buenos Aires shantytown, Maradona used his short stature to his advantage on the pitch, becoming renowned for his quick feet, artful dribbling, and his ability to run rings around opponents.

He reached the height of his fame in Europe, playing for iconic clubs such as Barcelona and Napoli. He would later coach his nation in the 2010 World Cup, as well as league teams in Dubai, Belarus, Mexico, and Argentina.

However, Maradona battled ill health for decades. Earlier this month, he was admitted to a hospital for depression but ended up requiring emergency brain surgery to alleviate a hematoma, according to ESPN.

The surgery was possibly Maradona’s “toughest moment,” his lawyer, Matias Morla, said two weeks ago when the footballer was discharged from the hospital. “It could have taken his life.”

Maradona was also undergoing treatment for alcohol dependency because, according to his neurologist, even a small amount of alcohol could react with the medication he was on and jeopardize his recovery.

Maradona previously battled cocaine addiction and obesity for 20 years, including during his playing career, and was hospitalized in 2007 for hepatitis and alcohol abuse.

According to the Associated Press and Argentine newspaper Clarin, the cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Despite his ongoing health battles, his unpredictable temper, and his mixed record as a coach, Maradona’s legendary status never wavered.

“Pelé scored more goals. Lionel Messi has won more trophies. Both have lived more stable lives than the overweight former cocaine addict who tops this list, whose relationship with football became increasingly strained the longer his career continued. If you’ve seen Diego Maradona with a football at his feet, you’ll understand,” soccer magazine FourFourTwo wrote in 2017 when it crowned Maradona the greatest footballer of all time.

Fellow soccer legends mourned his passing on Wednesday. Pelé tweeted that he’d lost “a great friend and the world lost a legend.”

“There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky,” he wrote in Portuguese.

Former English striker Gary Lineker, who lost the fateful 1986 World Cup game to Maradona’s team, called him “by some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time.”

“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God,” Lineker tweeted.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernández tweeted in Spanish, “You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thanks for having existed, Diego. We will miss you for life.”

The Argentine Football Association shared its “deepest sorrow for the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona.”

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