EXCERPTS FROM SOCCER IN SUN AND SHADOW by Eduardo Galoeano
AS NARRATED IN ESPN 30 FOR 30: MARADONA 1986
ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode on Maradona is among my favourite short films.
I have no doubt that the reason I enjoy it so much is the narration running through the film. The writing is so pure, so poetic. It beautifully captures everything that Maradona was about. I couldn’t find it written down anywhere online, so I undertook the exercise myself. Once done, I felt: why not share it? Obviously, none of it is my work, but I celebrate it nonetheless.
The film traces the journey of the Argentine football team through the low of the 1982 World Cup to the high of 1986. Central to their run, and to the film, is the inimitable Diego Maradona.
Here it is.
Following Argentina’s 1982 World Cup debacle
The idol is only an idol for a moment. A human eternity, all of nothing. And when the time comes for the golden foot to become a lame duck, the star will have completed its journey from burst of light to black hole.
The pleasure of demolishing idols is directly proportional to the need to erect them. All over the world, plenty of people were ready to celebrate the fall of that arrogant interloper, that fugitive from hunger, that grisa who had the insolent audacity to swagger and boast… “Maradona… Maradona… Maradona… Maradona… Maradona… goaaal… goaaaal… sos un genio, sos un genio Diego!”
But in the frigid soccer of today’s world, which detests defeat and forbids all fun, that man was one of the few who proved that fantasy too can be effective.
On the early games at the 1986 World Cup when Maradona was in top form
He started out playing for pleasure in the dirt streets of the slums, and now he plays out of duty in the stadiums where he has no choice but to win and win.
Football elevates it divinities and exposes them to the vengeance of the believers. In this culture of success, failure is the only sin that cannot be redeemed, and losing is not allowed.
Luckily on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script, and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee, and the crowd in the stands. All for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.
All his life he has avoided kicks in his dance with destiny. But now the ball seeks him out. Knows him. Needs him. He takes flight and the stadiums fly with him, writing an indelible history with feet that caress the ball and lead us who knows where.
On Argentina v England… that game
How many small theatres inhabit the great theatre of football? How many stages fit inside that rectangle of green grass. This play marks its author, unfolding as it pleases and according to the actor’s abilities. It definitely depends on fate, which like the wind blows every which way, and not all players perform with their legs alone.
They adored Diego Maradona for his prodigious acrobatics, and because he was a dirty god. A sinner. The most human of the deities. Anyone could see in him the walking synthesis of human weaknesses: arrogant, overbearing, deceitful, swaggering. But perhaps of all his crimes, the most profound, was the sin of being the best.
Build up to Finals
The aperture closed around Maradona. Fame which saved him from poverty, held him like a prisoner. He could never return to the anonymous crowd from whence he came. There exists no blood tests which detects the drug of success. But it is far more devastating than cocaine. On one side awaits heaven’s glory, on the other, ruins are based.
The ball turns, the world turns. For 140,000 at the Azteca. For millions around the world, Maradona sweated, prayed, laughed and cried. Here, still a man vulnerable to fate and to a bouncing ball, which of course are one and the same. However much we want to believe otherwise.
But the goals came for Argentina, and by half time fantasy had already become reality in the minds of the believers.
Football continues to be the art of the unforeseeable. When you least expect it… the impossible occurs. With 20 mins left to play, Argentina leading 2-0 conceded two goals. The ball began to run away from Maradona, cruelly indifferent to his effort. A bad bounce, spelling a crushed heart… the end of the world.
But then and forever, he appeared in the space between 4 German players, and the ball came to him. Spotting the run of Burruchaga, he played the pass, falling back to watch his teammate head towards goal.
One fine day, the Goddess of the wind, kisses the foot of man. That mistreated, scorned foot. And from the kiss a football idol is born.