It suits that Diego Maradona and George Best, two soccer geniuses, die on the same day


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“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are just players.”

The metaphor found in Jacques’ speech in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It seemed especially fitting in all the reflections written after Diego Maradona’s death.

Many who knew him best have long pondered the duality of Maradona’s existence. His personal trainer

He was described by Fernando Signorini, who can fit into this category as well as anyone, as two characters: “Diego,” the small, lost boy afflicted by insecurity, and “Maradona,” the caricature bearing the burden of superstardom. In the 2019 BAFTA-nominated movie of the same name by Asif Kapadia, old footage reveals

Signorini said he would love to go “to the end of the world” with Diego, but “with Maradona he wouldn’t take a single step.” His friend’s answer was straight to the point: “Without Maradona, I would still be in Villa Fiorito [the slum where he grew up].”

George Best, whose death anniversary fell on the same date as that of Maradona 15 years ago, was all too well aware of the importance of the

A cartoon. Just as with the

A mask to temper his binge drinking, womanizing and financial debauchery, much like the Argentinean, Best using caricature as a satirical device. His self-perception, as such, was.

“He once said, “I was born with a great talent, and a destructive streak often comes with that. Just like I wanted to outdo everyone, I just wanted to outdo everyone.

When I was playing, when we were out in the area, I had to outdo everyone.

In later years, he acknowledged that the seeds of his own demise carried his sense of mischief, saying that his decision to wear a sombrero and leather coat when he returned to England was for the press after his breakthrough success against Benfica in the quarterfinals of the 1966 European Cup. “I thought I was taking advantage of them,” he remarked. He marked himself with it, on the other hand. He was born the fifth Beatle.

No other footballer has come close to matching the global influence of Best and Maradona, as symbols of mainstream culture. The reasoning is straightforward: they were the two who spoke most to the purest conceptions of what soccer meant, but

Yet their personalities’ magnetism made it something

Emotional and transcendental. For someone who has heard Maradona, also from a

It was the gap,

A sense of sorrow is difficult to prevent. If he moved you – and he did it for me – then this week you’re going to shed more than a few tears.

Maradona has been

Maradona was compared to a rock star, but his death revealed that he was a quasi-religious figure, as in life. An Argentine friend told me this week that “it’s as if in every single household in the country a person died at once.” Meanwhile, his almost biblical significance has long been illustrated in the streets of Naples by the murals celebrating him throughout the city. Napoli anointed his status when they declared hours after his death that their stadium in San Paolo would henceforth bear his name. A god that replaces a saint.

Reflecting on Best’s death, one recalls his street-lined

Funeral procession on the way to Castle Stormont. There was the same sense of national loss, a unifying dimension in a community still trying to come to terms with its newfound and tenuous peace. He was apolitical and mourned by both sides in Belfast. Best, however, was not a spiritual figure. His death resembled that of a hedonistic pop star.

Yet it feels like one of God’s greatest tricks was to rob us of Maradona on the same day Best died. There is a symmetry that connects them more than the superficial observation that they were both addicts, that they were geniuses with the ball at their feet, or that they crossed religious boundaries.

There was nothing god-

Talent of either man given. Maradona made keeper uppies with crumpled newspapers, an orange, a ball made of rags. Best took a tennis ball to school every day. Their dedication to taming the ball is what connected them. Their addictive personalities could be as much a source of good as destruction, and for that they both knew what it was to carry the weight of expectation.

Maradona admitted when he heard of Best’s death in 2005 that he had been influenced by him.

“George inspired me when I was young,” he said. “He was flamboyant and exciting and could put his teammates in the


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