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POST TIME: 27 November, 2020 07:07:47 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 29 November, 2020 07:03:20 PM
Watching Maradona closely, my personal story
It was an incredible feeling when all reporters saw the king of football was coming crunching an apple, then sat on his chair and answered in style the queries to the reporters with a cheering mood, as his team outplayed the South Korea by 4-1.
Md Anwar Ullah

Watching Maradona closely, my personal story

Maradona is called the soccer god for his genius with the ball. It is a great opportunity for any sports reporter to go closer to Diego Armando Maradona and talk to him.

I was fortunate enough to meet this great soccer legend from a close distance. It was when the World Cup football was held in South Africa, I had the overwhelming experience for three times to watch Maradona from a close distance and once it was just from a handshake space.

In the 2010 World Cup I was assigned by my newspaper, The Independent, to cover the greatest show on Earth. The assignment like this is a dream come true and a thrilling experience for any reporter like me from Bangladesh. I was highly excited having the assignment. I was eagerly expecting that I could see the god of soccer, Maradona, who had generated such great love and admiration for himself among his football fans worldwide. Football stars of our time, his successors like Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo, couldn’t even dream of eliciting this love and admiration.

The first occasion when I had the opportunity was on June 12, during a match between Argentina and Nigeria at the Soccer City, Johannesburg, the venue of the opening and the final match of 2010 World Cup. I was watching the football hero of millions of soccer fans from a close distance when the ‘eternal’ player was just few yards away from press box.

At a moment when Diego, as the coach of Argentina, was standing outside the touch-line and guiding his team, the ball suddenly came out of the playing area just behind him after a drop nearer to the touchline and we (90,0000 crowds of Soccer City including reporters) watched a magnificent skill from the great with the ball.

No one could do what he could do when he just with his back-heel brought the ball in front over the head, received with his thigh and dribbled with toe before giving it to a Nigerian player for a throw-in. What an unbelievable power of control over ball. It was a moment to remember forever like a sports newsman like me.

But the whole world will remember forever the magnificent piece of skill from Maradona displayed in 1986 World Cup when the legend stunned millions of soccer fans edging past half of the England sides before to rush past the English goalkeeper to score the ‘goal’ of the century.  

However, the second time was June 17, 2010. It certainly is one of the best memorable moments in my reporting life when I had the chance to see Maradona from too close a distance. That time I joined the post match press meet after the Argentina and South Korea match, also held at the Soccer City, Johannesburg. I was very lucky to have my seat at the front line, a hand-shake distance from the stage where Maradona was seated. It was an incredible feeling when all reporters saw the king of football was coming crunching an apple in hand, then sat on his chair and answered in style the queries to the reporters with a cheering mood, as his team outplayed the South Korea by 4-1.

Third time I saw Maradona on July 3, 2010 in Cape Town. Interestingly that time we (reporters) were lucky enough to have our press box seats behind the dugout, from where he was giving direction to this team.  

But it was probably the most shocking day in the life for the most gifted soccer player in history when his side suffered a woeful 4-0 defeat to Germany in the quarterfinal match. It was really very painful to watch that the all-time-best and the most celebrated booter was crying like a kid.

The gallery with about 70,000 people just came into pin-point silence as it watched the greatest soccer players of all time was crying like a child after losing the match.

On these three occasions, I could not ask Maradona any question and there was no opportunity for that, but watching him from a close distance was indeed the most memorable moments for a reporter like me.

The writer is a sports journalist of The Independent.