“We” could not win the World Cup, since no British team had even qualified for the finals in the USA. So the British media decided to restage the glorious Falklands War instead, with the Argentinian captain Diego Maradona cast in the role of the headlines.
Maradona was kicked out of the World Cup after failing a drugs test. He was found to have traces of the banned substance, ephedrine, in his blood stream. He might have taken it to combat a summer virus. He might have taken it to help him lose weight fast before the World Cup finals began. But one thing is for certain, he did not take it to make him lay the kind of football with which he has bewitched the world for a decade. They have not invented a drug that can make you play like Maradona. If they had, even England and Scotland could have qualified for the finals with the aid of a cornershop chemist. But the British media were not interested in any of that. To them Maradona’s expulsion from the tournament proved he was “Dirty-cheat Diego”(the idea is that you say it fast and it sounds like Dirty cheatin’ Dago), and they dragged out every has-been British footballer to kick him when he was down.
Gary Lineker said it was a case of “ good riddance “, and Terry Butcher announced that Maradona should never have been allowed to play in the World Cup in the first place ,because his previous drug conviction (for taking cocaine, a drug which definitely does not enhance your ball skills) meant he was setting a terrible example to young fans. Unlike Mr Butcher, who set them such a fine example by head-butting Tunisians on the field while playing for England.
Of course, the bile displayed by the likes of Lineker and Butcher came purely from their sense of affronted sportsmanship, and had “nothing” to do with the fact that these players were part of the English team beaten by Maradona in the quarter final of the 1986 World Cup, He humiliated England in that game, not with the Hand of God, but with the second goal, the dazzling run past half of the team that made the Fenwicks and Butchers of the English defence look like the artless shit kickers they were. Linker won the Golden Boot in that World Cup by scoring six goals. But nobody outside his native Leicester remembers any of them. The ones Maradona scored against England and Belgium on the way to winning the tournament will live in the memory forever.
The bashing bulldogs of the British press have been waiting for revenge ever since, and they sunk their teeth into Maradona with relish。 Maradona has been playing on drugs for most of his career. He has had to pump himself full of the pain-killer cortisone, to enable him to play on with the countless injuries inflicted by the Butchers he found wherever he played—in Argentina, in Spain, in Italy and in World Cup tournaments. There was never any outcry about that because cortisone is legal. Indeed the rich men who held his contracts insisted he take the drugs, because their bank balances needed him on the pitch, regardless of the damage which cortisone can do to the body in later life.
Maradona has always cultivated his relationship with the poor and the oppressed. In Naples he made himself the champion of the backward south of Italy against the rich north (centred in football terms on AC Milan) When Argentina played the Italians in Naples in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, Maradona even appealed to Neapolitans to support his team because “What has Italy ever done for you?”
Maradona has incurred the wrath of no less a bigot than the Pope, because every time His Holiness makes a speech about helping the poor, Maradona demands that the Vatican should give them its own vast wealth. And he has often fallen foul of the Argentinian oligarchy. When he arrived in the USA for the World Cup, Maradona said that, first, he was glad to be in a country where they played football with their hands as well as their feet, and second that he had a message for Argentina’s president Carlos Menem: “Instead of swanning around here and boasting to everybody that we are going to win the World Cup, he should think of the poor people at home, on the streets and without jobs….”