talkSPORT’s South American correspondent Tim Vickery has paid an emotional tribute to Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend tragically passed away at the age of 60.
Maradona’s death has sent shockwaves around the footballing world, who appeared to be on the mend following successful surgery on a brain blood clot last month.
Maradona was a footballing iconIcon Sport
The Argentina legend was the best player at the 1986 World CupAFP or licensors
He suffered a heart attack at his home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, with the Argentinian Football Association announcing his untimely passing soon after.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has since declared three days of national mourning.
Maradona was one of the most colourful and controversial characters in the history of the game and will be solely missed.
In a moving interview on Wednesday’s Drivetime, Vickery lauded Maradona on what is a dark day for everyone involved in football.
“You can tell the history of south American football through Diego Maradona,” he said. “Firstly football is reintroduced by the British and then it’s reinterpreted by the south Americans.
“That benefitted that players with a low sense of gravity like Maradona, he was difficult to kick and boy people tried.
“That reinterpretation by the south Americans led to international triumphs and international recognition for a region of the world that is starved of those things.
Maradona had recently made an ‘amazing’ recovery from brain surgeryGetty Images
“There’s so much of the history of south American football in Maradona. I’m not sure there’s ever been anything like him at a World Cup , before or since.
“Somebody being able to play at that highest level in those [type of] games.”
He continued: “Maradona played his career during a time where the skilful players didn’t really get protection until after the 1990 World Cup.
“He played his football at a time not knowing if he was going to end up in hospital.
“I don’t think there’s any player who has ever displayed the courage that Maradona displayed week in week out.
“He was placed on the level of a religion icon. Those two goals he scored against England at the 1986, he lived out a national fantasy. That was the day he became a God.”
“If you talk to people who played with him the respect they had for him [was something else]. It’s not just respect though, it’s love.
“They recognise him as a giver. He was doing his little showpieces 60 yards from goal to delight the crowd and so on. He was helping the other players get their win bonus. He was never a luxury player.
“He was a fabulous team player who sweat blood for the team.”
Maradona, who celebrated his 60th birthday last month, sadly died on Wednesday after a heart attack at his Buenos Aires homeGetty Images – Getty
Vickery believes the worldwide coronavirus lockdown contributed heavily to Maradona’s death, who was the manager of Argentine outfit Gimnasia de La Plata at the time of his death.
He explained: “This could have happened a fair few years ago. There were times in his life where you never thought he was going to get to 60.
“Part of the very appeal of Maradona was his vulnerabilities. The fact that he would keep falling down and keep getting up again. This is the one time he’s unable to do that.
“What a legacy he leaves and what a life he has lived. Right until the end he was coaching and he was working – he didn’t have to do it.
“I think that the lockdown in Argentina and the halting of football – and it only came back on his 60th birthday.
“I’m pretty sure that lockdown was the final nail [in his coffin]. Maradona needed the disciple of work and the adrenalin rush of being involved in the game did him a lot of good.
“And for those few months when football shut down in Argentina and he was locked up in his house, it was no good for him.
“It looks as if the way he was treating his body in the last few months of lockdown has tipped him over the edge.”
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