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The Ball Does Not Get Stained — Farewell, Diego

A tribute to Diego Armando Maradona.

I write these lines fearing to be unprofessional, as I can only do it as a heartbroken fan who's lost his childhood hero.

Many years ago I travelled the world for months, visiting some of the poorest countries in the planet. One day, as I was walking in Myanmar, I sat down on the sidewalk to watch two skinny kids without shirts nor shoes grab two stones and make a goal in the dirt, to then play a penalty shootout with a very worn out ball. I did not know what they were saying but I understood a few words, when the shooter said 'Messi' and the goalkeeper said 'Keylor Navas.'

That day I realized that my love for this sport did not relate to tactics, nor training activities, nor jersey models, but to football being the channel for dreams and hopes of a better future for too many in this world.

Life levels up inside a soccer field. That's why Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan poet wrote about the soccer idol: "The goddess of the wind kisses the foot of the man, the mistreated, the despised foot, and from that kiss the football idol is born. He is born in a straw cradle and a tin hut and comes into the world hugging a ball."

Diego Maradona was that idol that Galeano refers to. The golden boy, the diamond in the mud. His poor childhood in a marginal neighborhood, his six siblings sleeping on the floor of the only room his house had. His mother faking stomach aches so her children would have another bite to eat at dinner.

Diego Maradona represented all of this and more. He was not a soccer player, he was a symbol. A symbol of hope, a revolutionary who would stand for the weak and fight the powerful, as the intro words from dedicated song Marado by R&R band Los Piojos recite: "They say he escaped from the dream of the faceless, and challenges now the powerful and the villains bearing no arms but a number 10 in his jersey."

On the field, he was too talented to be human. Off the field, he was too human to be demanded to be a god.

I wrote this article a few years ago about his life and why he'll always be considered, at least in my home country Argentina, the most symbolic player who will ever live. I share it today as a tribute to him.

Farewell Diego, rest in peace.

"And Jesus said 'I'm leaving and about tactics I won't speak anymore, but I'll give you all some advice: The ball always to number 10, and another miracle will happen' " — Fragment from D. Maradona's tribute song 'What is god?' by Las Pastillas Del Abuelo.

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