Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, passed away last week at the age of 60.
Interestingly, the football legend scored his last goal with the Argentina national team at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA during a Group D stage game against Greece.
Maradona was also known as a supporter of Olympiacos, visiting Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in 2005 and telling thousands of fans “Long live Greece, long live Olympiacos.”
Hi Champion, when I woke up this morning, I was shocked to hear that you had passed on. I didn’t want to believe it, but as I scrolled through my social media pages, I soon realised that it was true, the protagonist of my best memories left us way too early.
It seems like yesterday.., at the age of five, I discovered who you were when you played for Argentina Juniors. You were sixteen years of age, and everyone was talking about you. You went on to play for Boca Juniors and then Barcelona. All I wanted to do was be a professional player like yourself, wear the number 10 shirt, score free kicks, goals directly from the corner and incredible goals like the ones you scored. I was always up at 4 am in the morning to watch your Champions League matches with Napoli. Napoli became the best team in Italy, and every time you were playing, it was something that I couldn’t miss.
Your vision, smarts, dribbling skills, free kicks, penalties, assists, Rabona crossing, overhead crossing scissor kicks on goal and leadership was like magic. You were hacked down, kicked intentionally, as it was the only way to stop you. No player would have survived those nasty tackles, but you kept getting up. You took your country onto your shoulders and steered them to the 1986 World Cup winning medal. You gave people sheer happiness but especially the people of your country. When people suffered in Argentina, you would provide them with hope, faith and something to smile and be proud of.
Your life as a footballer was almost perfect, but you had challenges in your life like everyone else. I’m sure that most of the people will remember you as a Legend “El Dios”, but unfortunately there will be some who will only remember your mistakes. Therefore, I’m wondering how many people can see the human being behind the soccer star, a hero who also had weaknesses and fears, and without a doubt, the primary victim of his own mistakes.
Today is a day to celebrate your life and the amount of happiness that you brought to the football community. Also, it is a day to think…Why did such a talented player end his life in this condition? When was the first time that the dark shadows started to cover your internal light? How can we improve the path and the future of young sports players?
It’s not easy to understand, but let’s face it, it happens too often. Great artists, musicians, actors, sports players, many of them go down the wrong path. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, and different kinds of distractions to make up their emptiness. All caused by their lack of education, limiting beliefs, and low self-esteem that makes the wrong people surround you.
Believe me, I deeply understand you. I made mistakes in the past too. Since I was 3 years old, I fell in love with the ball, and I couldn’t see the importance of having a balanced life.
Above all, our passion was football, but we didn’t fulfil ourselves with anything else. I wish that you had the opportunity to face and overcome your fears, and to find a bigger purpose in life as I did.
Today, I promise you that I will continue to inspire my younger students with your legacy, and motivate them to achieve their goals not just in football, but most importantly in their personal life. I learned that what people can see from the outside as success, could merely mean disappointment and failure from the inside.
You made everything look easy on the football field, and I cannot thank you enough for inspiring me to become the best possible footballer that I could be. I hope that wherever you are now, that you are at peace with yourself, and that you remember how much we truly loved you for who you were not just as a footballer, but most importantly, as a very generous human being.
*The open letter to Diego Maradona was written by Con Boutsianis. He is an ex-International Football (soccer) Player, Team Coach and Player Development Specialist for the last 17 years. Acclaimed as “The Best Free Kick Specialist in Australian Football history”.