Kerala

The air is thick with his memories

The Kudos Club of Kangarapady in Kochi observes a candlelight vigil on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

In his peak, Diego Maradona packed in cyclonic energy blowing away entire oppositions off a football pitch single-handedly. It was only fitting that the Argentine football genius simply overshadowed the landfall of a potentially destructive cyclone, which every medium was glued to till then, as news of his death broke on Wednesday late night.

His influence and unifying force were further on show a day after when the diminutive magician’s image dominated the profiles of thousands of social media users who till the other day were squabbling over political and ideological differences. And then everyone just turned nostalgic and waxed eloquent of their Maradona memories.

‘Dronacharya’

“For our generation, football coaching was not so common, and he was the de facto Dronacharya and his games, our football manual. Many more football binaries like the Messi-Ronaldo may yet grace the sport, but none would have done more to popularise the game as Pele and Maradona did,” said Ebin Rose, former Kerala footballer who now coaches a budding football club Kovalam FC.

For Simon Sunderraj, the last Indian footballer to have scored for India in an Olympic game, back in 1960, the defining memory of Maradona is what many regard as the goal of the century he scored against England dribbling past multiple players in the Mexico World Cup.

“Football lovers then could watch him only in the World Cup since the Italian league in which he played was not telecast here. For Brazilian fans Pele will be the greatest, for Hungarians, it will be Puskás, for English Stanley Matthews, and for Argentine fans, it will be Maradona. That debate will go on,” said the former Indian winger, who also brought home the Santhosh Trophy to Kerala as a manager in 1973, from his home at Thanjavur

Being a Brazil fan who started watching the game only during the era of Ronaldinho and Luis Figo, Maradona was not so much of an inspiring figure for the current Kerala player Akhil Praveen, who equate the departed magician with his successor Lionel Messi.

“If he could play the way he did with his individual brilliance in those days, when tactics had little place in football, he would have gone past Messi had he got to play in our times,” said the youngster.

‘One foot is enough’

Victor Manjilla, the former Indian goalkeeper, is yet to watch a greater player who more or less relied on a single foot. “He was grace personified and supremely confident with his touches and passes with his left leg and very rarely used the other. He could use that leg like none,” recollected Mr. Manjilla a Pele fan, who, however, admitted that the Argentine had an edge when it comes to adapting to the playing styles of different continents.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 4:51:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/the-air-is-thick-with-his-memories/article33188552.ece

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