Paul Gascoigne pays tribute to ‘icon’ Diego Maradona

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‘Diego, I’m tipsy… he said it’s okay, so am I’: Gazza pays tribute to ‘icon’ Maradona and tells of moment pair first met at football match

  • Paul Gascoigne today praised Diego Maradona as he recalled a meeting in 1992
  • They were playing in a Lazio v Sevilla charity match and Gazza had been drinking
  • In the tunnel he said he was tipsy, and Argentinian replied: ‘It’s OK Gazza, so am I’
  • Also met in 2006 where they shared a cigar after Gazza asked him for a lighter

Paul Gascoigne today recalled telling Diego Maradona before a match that he was feeling tipsy, and the Argentinian footballer replied: ‘It’s OK Gazza, so am I’.

The former England player praised the ‘icon’ after his death aged 60 and spoke about the time they faced each other in a friendly between Lazio and Sevilla.

Gazza had been drinking on the flight to the match in Spain in November 1992 but still scored a goal after getting past four players before telling Maradona: ‘Beat that.’

He also remembered asking Maradona for a lighter outside a Soccer Aid match in Manchester in 2006, without realising who he was – before they shared a cigar.

Speaking about their meeting in 1992 at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in Seville, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘On the flight I’d had a couple of drinks.

Paul Gascoigne (left) and Diego Maradona (right) faced each other in a friendly between Lazio and Sevilla in 1992 at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in Seville

‘In the tunnel, I went to Diego, I went ‘Diego, I’m tipsy’. He went: ‘It’s OK Gazza, so am I’. So that was OK. I went out, I beat about four players, scored a goal.

‘And I looked at him and I said ‘beat that’. Obviously I spoke a bit of Italian because he doesn’t speak English and neither do I. So I said ‘beat that’. After that I think I said the wrong thing.

‘He was unbelievable, magic. What a player. My icon is Bryan Robson, but round the world Diego was just a phenomenal footballer, wasn’t he.’

Some 14 years later the two of them met again in a Soccer Aid match at Old Trafford in Manchester, in which Maradona scored for the ‘Rest of the World’ team.

And, speaking at home in Poole, Gazza said today: ‘At a charity game, I remember I wanted a lighter. I’d seen a little fella outside with a parka hat on, a big long cigar.

Maradona kisses Gascoigne in an undated photograph. The footballers told each other that they were both tipsy before the friendly match in Sevilla in 1992

Maradona kisses Gascoigne in an undated photograph. The footballers told each other that they were both tipsy before the friendly match in Sevilla in 1992

‘I just went up from behind him and I just said ‘can I borrow you lighter please’. And he turned round and it was Diego, so I started laughing.

‘So I shared a bit of a cigar with him. And we clicked then. We played in that match – obviously Ben (GMB presenter Ben Shephard) played as well, you played quite well to be fair Ben.’

He added of Maradona: ‘He was an icon, wasn’t he. I know a lot of people go on about the ‘Hand of God’ – it made Peter Shilton anyway.’

Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 quarter-finals, when he pushed the ball into the net with his hand, earned him infamy – although he followed up by scoring the ‘goal of the century’, a remarkable solo effort, in the same game.

Gascoigne spoke about Maradona while appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain today

Gascoigne spoke about Maradona while appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today 

The Argentina World Cup winner and the national team’s former manager had been in hospital in Buenos Aires after surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.

Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and was the inspiration for Argentina’s World Cup success in Mexico in 1986.

He also led the country to the final of the 1990 tournament in Italy and managed them in South Africa in 2010.

Maradona’s successes made him a global star and a national hero in Argentina but his career was also blighted by controversies on and off the field.

Maradona and Gascoigne played in Soccer Aid at Old Trafford in Manchester in May 2006

Maradona and Gascoigne played in Soccer Aid at Old Trafford in Manchester in May 2006

His international playing career ended in shame when he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and he was notorious for a wayward lifestyle.

He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Napoli.

However, he remained a revered figure at the Italian club, where he won two Serie A titles.

He also played for Barcelona, Sevilla, Boca Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys and was most recently manager of Gimnasia y Esgrima in La Plata, Argentina.  

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