Translated by Marvin Najarro
Football belongs to the people, to the arrabal, as are the wildflowers, the ivy, the grasslands and muddy streets. The adobe houses, the tin champas, the hunger, the unfulfilled dreams, the hardened back, the head held high, the friendly hand, the shoulder to lean on, the look that carries the soul in the pupils. The after-hours work shifts, the sun and the cold sticking to the skin. And when it comes to football nations have no borders, nor languages, religion, or nationality, they are consolidated into one, all the nations become one.
Because football is like oxygen, like the rainwater that embellishes the plants and the empty fields where the boys play the chamuscas; in the arrabal football is the nourishment, because it nourishes the soul. Football is the catalyst par excellence of the periphery, the one that causes the greatest of joys and the greatest of shared sadness when a team loses or wins. And it is not because of what the mafias have done with it, that is another thing.
It is the passion of passions, the one that boosts emotions, the one that raises to the skies that who scores a goal, the one that sends down to hell that who misses a penalty kick. Neither the most potent drug, nor the cruelest torture has overcome the passion that football unleashes in the human soul. If not, we should ask Mujica how football was experienced in his 12 years in prison. So, to understand why nations all over the world mourn the death of Maradona, we must understand what football means in marginalized places, where one of the few joys is given by the most beautiful sport in the world.
After analyzing this, it is very easy to understand why Maradona was so loved by the people, by those who do not offer his heart to any god. The people’s love cannot be bought, it is earned, it springs up of itself. And how could they not love Maradona who could have forgotten the mud of the arrabal, the hunger, the misery, the warm embrace of those who have only their dignity to face life, who like Evita rubbed shoulders with the powerful but never sold his plainsman soul, his small-town, his arrabalero soul, and instead gave himself to his own people, even with the consequences that this would imply.
Maradona was not expelled from elite football because of drugs, he was expelled because of his irreverence of arrabal, because of his attitude of holding his head up, and speak when others were silent or used as doormat, or got themselves down on their knees; because of the two goals scored against England for which he was never forgiven. For taking pride in his humble origins, for doing as he pleased while the hypocrites kept up appearances. How good that he succeed, that he tried to be free in his own way in this world that enslaves us one way or another. At least one of us tried to fly without forgetting to carry the honor of the arrabal on his wings.
Maybe he went off the rails, but who doesn’t? Only that he, by being the God of football even letting out a sigh got the public attention. And those who hated him because of his origin, because of his strong class identity amplified it more. And so, we are all worldly, some more than others, but in the end we also slosh around in the same puddles. Why did he have to get rid of machismo and patriarchy? Have we gotten rid of it? Why put the millenarian burden of misogyny upon him and not take our share? Why to throw stones at him when we are all part of this system that abuse women? And why not think about what exclusion and blows (physical and emotional) do to the mind and soul of an arrabal child? Why did he have to get rid of his demons, just because he was the God of football? And what about us, have we overcome ours? Why did he have to do away with the charms that patriarchy in the world of football affords to men? Wasn’t he human too? Did he have any guidance in life? Didn’t he plunge himself into the millionaire world of elite football? Why did he have to be an example and have balance in his life? And the system, what do we say about the system and the entourage? It is true; one must be in sports what one is in life. But that applies to everyone, not just to one human being. Have we accomplished that? And if we did, what gives us the right to point an accusing finger at others?
What happens with Maradona is that the hatred they harbor toward him is so intense that they never forgave him the fact that he never forgot his origin, for not selling out his arrabal soul to the luxury and opulence of those who abuse the people. And on the contrary, instead of seeking the shade and accommodation of the fascists, he took the side of those who put up with blows and bullets when he had no need whatsoever, when he could have forgotten about them.
It was not just his athletic skills; his mastering of football techniques, his genius with dribbling, his spectacular goals, what makes Maradona grandiose is his class identity and historical memory. Deciding which side of life to be on, even if that earned him the contemp of those who kept an eye on him whenever they could.
That is why the people are crying for him, because he could have sold himself out, be a doormat or kneel before the oligarchs and the big mafias of football and capital, but he chose to share with those sloshing around in muddy puddles, that is why his legs created art in the pitch with the clay, and his rebellious acts won the arrabales heart. And from the arrabales across the world we say thank you Maradona for having allowed us to dream, and enjoy the passion of passions, but above all for raising your voice when you could have kept quiet and forget your origin and your people.
As for me, Brazil is and always will be my favorite team, and Pelé my favorite player, but give to Maradona what belongs to Maradona.
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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado