The Argentine legend may be a far cry from his halcyon days — that short but stout, robust physique which used to cast a spell on a Football pitch with his magical left foot. Now 57 with a roly-poly figure, his movements following a recent shoulder surgery, appear a bit restricted. But give him a ball, or create a football ambience for him and seethe magic.
The high point of Tuesday’s programme was supposed to be an exhibition match between two teams led by Maradona and cricketing icon Sourav Ganguly. Maradona’s solitary contribution to the game, though, was a ceremonial kick-off before he left the Barasat venue, leaving Sourav disappointed.
The overall Maradona show, however, was anything but disappointing. He was the cynosure for the entire 80 minutes he was present at the venue, playing to the gallery and assuming myriad avatars — the trainer, the singer and, above all, an entertainer par excellence. “I’m here for football. Whenever I see this ball, it gives me a kick,” he said soon after making an appearance at 1.25 pm and holding court at a football clinic in his inimitable style.
“Vivo India! Footballhas given me everything. The game has given me a chance to travel everywhere in the world. I want Indian football to grow,” he thundered to the roars of “Diego, Diego” from the stands, occupied mainly by the students and their parents. On the field, he made it a theatre of fun and fantasy.
Wearing a grey T-shirt and a matching shorts, he turned a trainer full of dedication, releasing the ball for the awestruck participants of the clinic and asking them to score. When a student drove his volley well over the crosspiece, he showed him how the body should be bent and where his eyes should be trained while taking the shot. And on one occasion, when he managed to beat the student posing as a goalkeeper with his trademark left-footed precision, Maradona reacted with a clenched fist, reminding everyone of his celebration during his playing days.
A host of former India players — Shyam Thapa, Prasun Banerjee, Sisir Ghosh, Alvito D’Cunha, Debjit Ghosh and Dipendu Biswas — watched in awe from the sidelines.
Then the singer in Maradona took over.
Kochi-based Charles Anthony, expert at singing in several foreign languages, was cheering Maradona on by singing “O Sole Mio” (My sunshine) in Italian — one of Maradona’s favourite tracks when he was in Napoli. As Maradona turned to the singer, he ran up to him and started singing in chorus.
As he was singing, Sourav — accompanied by Bengal Ranji captain Manoj Tiwary — tip toed in to the ground, almost unnoticed. As the organisers introduced Maradona to Sourav, the two embraced each other in a hug. Having spent all his energy during the half-hour clinic, the 57-year-old was too exhausted to play a full-fledged ‘match’ and excused himself after starting the game off.
As Sourav pitted his skills against the Shyam Thapas and Biswajit Bhattacharyas, many had already left the venue fully satisfied. Maradona had made their day.
Source : timesofindia