Maradona lives

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Two men sitting on a small sofa are watching a television. The one on the left, an old man. The sparse gray hair reveals a prominent forehead of a wrinkled face with an exacerbated nose. Tired eyes in a sometimes expressionless gaze stare at the screen. The companion, located at the right of the old man, seems not to be so focused on what is happening on the television, but being more aware of the reactions of his partner.

The small television – which crowns the sober room made up of a sofa, a table and a hospital bed – broadcasts a match by Estudiantes de la Plata. One more day of the Argentine league championship. Suddenly, in the austere room of the Argentine Institute of Diagnosis and Treatment – which could most resemble an asylum – the expressionless face of the old man seems to regain some vitality: “Jorge, why are there so many Diego flags in the stadiums? The question takes Jorge Bilardo’s breath away, who with difficulty answers: “Carlos, it does not matter. Everything is alright”. Despite Jorge’s curt response, Diego Maradona’s flags have already opened a journey in the mind of Carlos Salvador Bilardo. Flashbacks of all kinds come and go in his memory. But there is a very specific one, which rings in his head over and over again: “Poropopo poropopo es el equipo del narigón!”

Buenos Aires. June 30, 1986. A crowd floods the streets of the capital of Argentina. The main nucleus of the movement is concentrated in the Plaza del 2 de Mayo. Packed with whitish-white flags, the thousands of eyes converge on one point, where all the action takes place: the balcony of the Casa Rosada. There, the entire squad of the Argentine team, which have just been proclaimed world champions. Maradona with a microphone leads the chants, with Bilardo trying to go unnoticed. It is the golden age of ‘bilardismo’, but above all the paroxysm of Diego Armando Maradona is taking place.

May 1986. The Argentine team of Carlos Salvador Bilardo arrives in Mexico, to play the 86 World Cup, without the favorite poster and with criticism around the figure of Maradona and the captain’s armband, which had been given to ‘The Fluff ‘ and retired to Daniel Passarella, world champion in 1978. The division around who should be the captain of the team was joined by those around the figure of Bilardo due to the suffered classification to Mexico 86: Argentina had been classified in extremis with Gareca’s goal against Peru in June 1985.

“Gooal of the ‘pincha’!”. Only the scream brings Carlos Bilardo back to the present. He contemplates the goal of his favourite team, Estudiantes, and seems to exhale a smile. Again, a general shot and a new view of Diego’s flags that make him absorb again in his memory. Now it is not the Casa Rosada and the songs. Now, his memory stops on the green of the playing field, and Diego´s flags dribbling all those English who crossed Maradona’s path, to end up scoring the ‘Goal of the Century’.

June 22, 1986. Quarterfinals. Argentina vs England. The pre-match atmosphere on the Argentine side is a mix between patriotism and revenge. To understand the climate of revenge, we must go back to June 1982, when Argentine troops had just been massacred by the English army in just ten weeks in the Falklands war. Now the picture was very different. There were no shots or bullets. The only weapon was a ball. Ahead was not the fearsome Royal Navy, but Gary Lineker’s England. The stage, the Estadio Azteca of Mexico, with more than 100,000 spectators.

With 0-0 at halftime, the excitement would have to wait. 51st minute of the match. Valdano receives the ball. He controls poorly and Hodge steals it and takes a back pass for his goalkeeper, Shilton, to catch it. But along the way, Maradona gets in the way. One hand hits the ball. It’s not Shilton’s. It’s Maradona’s left-handed hand pushing the ball to the back of the net. A sideways glance at the referee and a celebration for history.

55th minute of the match. Suddenly in a booth at the Azteca, the shouts of an announcer: “There Maradona has it, it is marked by two, Maradona steps on the ball. The genius of world football starts on the right, leaves the third and goes to play for Burruchaga… Always Maradona! Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta… Gooal! Goal! I want to cry! Good God, long live football. Great goal. Diegoooal. Maradona. It is for crying. Forgive me! Maradona, in a memorable run, in the all-time play. ‘Cosmic Kite’! From what planet did you come to leave so much English on the road, so that the country is a clenched fist screaming for Argentina? Argentina 2 – England 0. Victor Hugo Morales has just recounted the best goal in the history of the World Cup. Maradona receives the ball in the center of the field and ‘dribbles’ to the English half, to score the second goal. Words are unnecessary.

“Carlos! Carlos!”. A familiar voice awakens Carlos Bilardo. It is the voice of his brother Jorge Bilardo. “You were stunned, the game is over, what were you thinking? It’s the same, it’s getting late. I have to go”. It is night now, and visiting hours are ending. Carlos, already lying in the hospital bed, sees Jorge leaves the room. Before closing his eyes, he looks at a small photo frame on the bedside table. In the photo an image of a Maradona, crying hugs him. A sound resounds loudly in his head: “Poropopo poropopo es el equipo del narigón!”

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