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A Bolivarian Soccer Rebel- Brief remembrance of Diego Maradona

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A Bolivarian Soccer Rebel-

Brief remembrance of Diego Maradona

Monish R Chatterjee  2020

Like so many others, I have also felt sadness at the loss of Diego Maradona, the absolute football (I am using the global word for the sport, not the American version) wizard, whose performance on the field is emblazoned on people's memories and of course the permanence of video recordings.

What I am posting here, however, goes well beyond the athletics and sporting accomplishments. To me, what makes Maradona rise much higher as an immortal human figure is his identity with the human rights of oppressed people, especially of those in South America. There are aspects here which I myself did not know sufficiently, and some of these extraordinary details are outlined in the essay (from I have cited below.

Among the salient facts outlined in the essay:

(1) The author compares Maradona to Muhammad Ali thus: "What Muhammad Ali was to the Black human rights movement in the US, Maradona was to South America." And to this I agree. I must point out that when Muhammad Ali passed away, I made it a point to drive to his hometown (Louisville, KY), to be at the place of his birth and childhood in AN APARTHEID COUNTRY whose venal racism compared only with their then racist allies, the apartheid regime of S. Africa.

(2) A most interesting anecdote: Maradona visited the Vatican during the reign of John Paul the 2nd (one of the more staunchly conservative Pontiffs who created records in issuing "sainthood" by the dozens, and to his eternal shame essentially covered up for a huge number of pedophile priests), and during the tour asked the church leader: "If you truly care about the poor, then sell all this gold"- pointing to the gilded ceilings everywhere in the Vatican. Amazing! This pronouncement, BTW, immediately reminds me of Rabindranath Tagore's poem, Deena Daan (the translation of which by me appears online; an citation is appended below).

(3) Maradona apparently felt much more re-assured by Pope Francis (who is far more people- and justice-oriented), and said words to the effect- "Francisco brought me back." I assume he meant "back to the flock."

(4) And true to his allegiance to people's movements and causes, he expressed solidarity with many Bolivarian and other leaders, Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and of course, Fidel Castro. Fidel apparently provided very special medical care for Maradona in the early 2000s.

(5) Another very significant matter which I did not know about- at the time of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, it had been 4 years since the former (and now by proxy via the unrepentant imperial power which is the US) imperial and colonizing power, the UK, had sent out massive warships in order to maintain control over the Falklands (a tiny island off Argentina, which they call the Malvinas), much like off-shore bullies occupying lands of other people. Maradona's legend-making performance in beating the UK in the Final was largely motivated by the desire to teach the occupiers (then led by the repugnant Thatcher the Snatcher) a lesson or two.

(5) Fame and glamour did not tarnish his overall simplicity and the focus of his purpose.

These are all reasons why I have very special admiration for Maradona- far beyond his football fame. The same reason I so admire Colin Kaepernick, and much earlier (1968), the Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos (who, during the Civil Rights movement at its most turbulent, stood with fists up, face down at the Olympic medal ceremony). I salute these noble human specimens.


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Monish R. Chatterjee received the B.Tech. (Hons) degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from I.I.T., Kharagpur, India, in 1979, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering, from the University of Iowa, (more...)

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