Karate kicking the ‘Butcher of Bilbao’, shooting journalists, three-day cocaine binges in Naples and THAT wild-eyed celebration… The maddest moments from Diego Maradona’s very colourful life
- Argentine football legend Diego Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60
- He will be celebrated for his genius and achievements on the football field
- But his extraordinary life was pretty much constantly in a state of madness
- There were crazy on-field moments from the Hand of God to karate kicks
- At Napoli, he went partied for three days a week and was addicted to cocaine
- There were World Cup antics as Argentina player, manager and supporter
Of course Diego Maradona will be remembered for his God-given abilities with a football and his many moments of glory during a distinguished career.
But equally, the Argentine legend, who died on Wednesday at the age of 60, will be celebrated for the constant madness that punctuated his extraordinary life.
From fighting on the pitch and wacky celebrations to high-profile feuds, his wild party lifestyle and even shooting at journalists, Maradona certainly led a colourful existence.
Here are just some of the innumerable crazy moments involving Diego Armando Maradona.
Diego Maradona, Argentinian footballing legend and one of the greatest ever to play the game, has died at the age of 60 (pictured lifting the World Cup in 1986)
NEVER AFRAID TO PICK A FIGHT
It was the 1983-84 season and Barcelona had just lost the LaLiga title to Athletic Bilbao by a solitary point. It’s a point they probably would have made up had Maradona not had his ankle broken by Bilbao’s hardman Andoni Goikoetxea during an early-season meeting.
When the two sides then met in the Copa del Rey final after the conclusion of the title race, it was Bilbao who again came out on top.
But Maradona wasn’t going to take the defeat lying down. When Bilbao player Miguel Sola told him to ‘f*** off’ on the final whistle, Maradona decided he wanted revenge.
Maradona poses at the Nou Camp during his two years as a Barcelona player from 1982 to 1984
Maradona in action against Manchester United during the 1984 European Cup Winners’ Cup
He squared up to Sola and headbutted him before all hell broke loose. Maradona elbowed another Bilbao player in the face and kneed another in the head, knocking him out. Soon he was testing the strength of his mended ankles with a series of karate kicks as his Barcelona team-mates joined in.
With King Juan Carlos among 100,000 fans inside the Bernabeu watching, a riot broke out with 60 people injured when fans started throwing objects from the stands.
Maradona felt he had a measure of revenge on Goikoetxea, nicknamed ‘The Butcher of Bilbao’, but it would prove to be his final game for Barcelona, who decided they couldn’t tolerate any more of him.
TAKING AIM AT JOURNALISTS
Maradona never had the best relationship with the media. There’s at least one instance of journalists getting a slap on the cheek for asking what he deemed a stupid question.
But Maradona took things to another level in February 1994 when he injured four reporters by shooting at them with an air rifle.
In a mad moment captured by television cameras, Maradona emerged from his country home near Buenos Aires to confront the press pack camped outside.
Maradona was given a two-year suspended sentence for shooting a group of journalists with an air rifle outside his Buenos Aires home in 1994, injuring four of them
Crouching behind a Mercedes car with two other men, he started firing the gun at the crowd of reporters. Those injured sued Maradona but it took four years for the case to be heard with the player given a two-year suspended sentence.
Maradona’s life was in a downward spiral at the time and a few months later he would be sent home in disgrace from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for a banned drug.
…AND RUNNING THEM OVER
That wasn’t Maradona’s last run-in with the press.
On the day Maradona, as manager of Argentina, named his 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while driving in a Mini to the press conference to make the announcement he was mobbed and accidentally drove over a cameraman’s foot amid the scrum.
Of course, the accident wasn’t his fault, as he made clear to the stricken man. ‘What an a**hole you are. How can you put your leg there when it can get run over, man?’
THE EYES GIVE HIM AWAY
Maradona’a career was almost over by the time of the aforementioned early departure from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for the banned stimulant Ephedrine.
But he wouldn’t depart the international stage until giving the world one final reminder of his enduring class. Maradona scored a stunning goal in Argentina’s 4-0 win over Greece in their opening group match in Foxborough.
What followed was one of the World Cup’s most infamous celebrations as he ran towards a pitchside TV camera shoutings at the top of his voice with his eyes bulging and face distorted.
A wild-eyed Maradona celebrates scoring for Argentina against Greece at the 1994 World Cup
It proved a last hurrah with Maradona sent home in disgrace after failing a drugs test
THE FEUD WITH PELE
Every football fan will have their own opinion on who was the greatest out of Maradona or Brazilian legend Pele.
It’s far to say the pair didn’t get on for a good many years, with Maradona making some sordid allegations about his rival.
He claimed in the late 1990s that Pele had a gay relationship with one of his youth coaches at Santos.
In the book ‘Pele: His Life and Times’, friend of the Brazilian star Celso Grellet revealed Pele wanted to respond to the allegations but decided to keep his opinions to himself.
‘Maradona had said that Pele had had a homosexual experience,’ Grellet said. ‘It was never true, but Pele is a big man and decided he would not respond.
Relations between football greats Pele (left) and Maradona weren’t great for many years with the Argentine making sordid accusations about the Brazilian icon
‘Pele is heavily involved in the anti-drugs campaign, particularly the abuse of drugs in sport, and Maradona was clearly an ill man.’
And in his 2000 autobiography, Maradona accused Pele of letting his former team-mate Garrincha ‘die in misery’, adding ‘I’d like to see him fight the rich and powerful that are damaging football.’
However, the pair did eventually make up after years of bickering. They embraced in public during an event in Paris in 2016, not long after Pele had undergone hip surgery.
‘It is really nice to see him like this, healthy, and being able to join us,’ Maradona said. ‘We should hang together always. And enough of the fighting, enough of the barbs between us.’
The pair did make up in recent years and shared a public embrace at an event in 2016
Paying his respects after news of Maradona’s death, Pele wrote: ‘What sad news. I 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.’
Pele agreed, saying ‘this is a moment of peace’ and the Brazilian icon was one of the first to pay tribute to Maradona after his passing.
He wrote on Instagram: ‘I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a legend… One day I hope we will play soccer together in the sky.’
HOW ABOUT THIS FOR A SCHEDULE?
The seven years Maradona spent at Napoli were undoubtedly the most successful of his club career. This unfashionable Italian club in one of the country’s poorest cities won two Serie A titles, the Italian Cup and then the UEFA Cup.
And there was never a dull moment of the pitch either.
Elevated to the status of a demi-God by the people of the city, he couldn’t go anywhere without being hounded.
Maradona, who had been hooked on cocaine since his Barcelona days, enlisted the services of the Camorra – the notorious mafia crew – who offered him protection in the city.
Maradona was a demi-God in Naples when he played there, lifting them to unprecedented success during the late 1980s
They also indulged his habits of partying, drug-taking and extra-marital affairs. But even all this had to be fitted into some sort of schedule.
So with Napoli’s blessing, this was Maradona’s week for most of the time he spent with them:
Sunday: Serie A match
Sunday night until Wednesday morning: Continuous partying and cocaine binge
Wednesday morning until Saturday evening: ‘Cleanse’ and sweat it all out in training.
Sunday: Serie A match.
But Maradona struggled off the field while at the club, his addiction to cocaine worsening
The routine was revealed in Asif Kapadia’s 2019 documentary about Maradona’s time with Napoli.
Ultimately and inevitably, it would prove his downfall. After a phone call with a prostitute was tapped by the police in January 1991, charges were brought against Maradona for cocaine possession and distribution.
A blood test in April of that year found traces of the drug and a 15-month ban from football, leading Maradona to flee home to Argentina.
Maradona is arrested by police at his apartment in Buenos Aires for possession of cocaine in April 1991, not long after the Italian football league banned him for 15 months
STEALING THE SHOW AT THE 2018 WORLD CUP
Maradona’s executive box antics became an entertaining sideshow to Argentina’s matches at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with the TV cameras seemingly just as much focused on him as the actual game.
One minute he was dancing with random women, the next he was posing for selfies with fans and stretching his arms wide like Christ. He went ballistic when Marcos Rojo scored the goal that took Argentina into the knockout rounds, giving opposition fans the finger.
But he was also seen slumped in his seat and was taken to hospital after one game for checks after collapsing.
There were remarkable scenes when Maradona turned up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
Maradona watched Argentina’s games from executive boxes and stole the show
But there were worrying scenes as well, with the legend seen slumped on his seat
AN EVENTFUL SPELL AS ARGENTINA MANAGER
Maradona attended the 2018 World Cup purely as an Argentina fan, but back in 2010 he was carrying the hopes of the nation as their manager.
It was a pretty disastrous two-year tenure but threw up some brilliant moments.
There was Maradona sliding on his belly across the rain-sodden turf while celebrating the dramatic late goal Martin Palermo scored against Peru to move them closer to qualifying for the finals.
There was the time Maradona ordered those on the losing side during a training game to line up in the goalmouth and lower their trousers so the winners could take pot shots at their bare backsides.
Maradona slides belly-first across the wet turf after Martin Palermo’s goal against Peru
But the World Cup finals proved to be a disappointment for Maradona and the Argentina team
During the tournament, when asked by a journalist whether his players were allowed to have sex, Maradona gave the memorable reply: ‘Of course, as long as the women do all the work!’
And there was his parting shot to journalists after Argentina’s elimination from the World Cup finals, a 4-0 thrashing by Germany, in which he told them to ‘suck his d***’ during an extraordinary rant.
CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL?
Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher recalled in 2017 the crazy tale of the time Maradona threatened to have him shot when they met in a bar following a gig in Argentina.
The Gallagher brothers were sat in a bar when Maradona and a 30-strong entourage burst through the doors and Liam asked if he could go upstairs and meet the great man.
‘He’s gone upstairs with a load of f***ing madheads and a load of f***ing women of the night,’ Liam recalled.
Maradona with Oasis stars Noel Gallagher (left) and Liam Gallagher (right) in a 1997 picture
‘We steamed up there and there’s loads of f***ing activity going on and Maradona’s in the middle of the room doing football tricks with a bottle top.
‘And his eyes were f***king like that [wide] and ours weren’t far off and I just went like, “It’s a bit moody in here, let’s get a quick picture with him and f*** off.”
‘And he’s sweating his b******s off and we turn around [to the interpreter] and he says: “He told me to tell you, if yous leave with any of these b*****s, he’ll have you shot.”‘
Noel Gallagher posted the picture they managed to get with Maradona after hearing the news on Wednesday.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST… THE HAND OF GOD
Despite all of that, arguably the most controversial moment of Maradona’s life came at the 1986 World Cup when his infamous ‘Hand of God’ dumped England out.
We all know what happened – 5ft 5in Maradona leaped into the air and punched the ball over England keeper Peter Shilton (6ft) and into the net.
The referee didn’t spot the handball despite furious England protests and four minutes later, Maradona glided all the way from his own half to score again.
‘A little with his head and a little with the hand of God,’ Maradona said afterwards.
Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal against England at the 1986 World Cup ensured his infamy