“La Pelota Non Se Mancha.”

  • Written on:

Diego Maradona’s entire life has proven his ability to create success out of seemingly hopeless situations.

From his childhood in Villa Fiorito, a poor town on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, to his remarkable maneuvering on the pitch. Over the years, his story has become a global, social phenomenon; an oddly compelling balance of excellence and controversy.

His career began young, playing on Los Cebollitas (The Little Onions), the junior team of Buenos Aires's Argentinos Juniors. Even then, he was a natural and a showstopper, amusing crowds during intermissions with his ball tricks. He would go on to play for the Bocas Argentinos, FC Barcelona, and FC Sevilla, before entering the pinnacle of his career and playing some of the greatest football the sport has ever seen.

He was called to his country’s national team, Los Albicelestes, at the astonishing age of 16. For Argentina alone he earned 91 caps, scored 34 goals, and participated in four consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments, leading Argentina to victory in 1986 and to second place in 1990.

But while Argentina cultivated his technique, international football is where Maradona found his fame.

In 1984, Maradona joined S.S.C. Napoli. He quickly became a beloved son of the city, bringing them to victory for the first time in their existence. Maradona’s era in Naples included two Serie A Italian Championships in 1986/87 (in which he was the top scorer) and 1989/90; the Coppa Italia in 1987; the UEFA Cup in 1989; and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1990. He was a Neapolitan idol – worshipped in music, murals, and shrines, praised for elevating the poor town above the richer club teams of the North – and remains one to this day.

Throughout his career, Maradona was steadfast, his attitude perseverant and his aura untouched. He answered every call – from Buenos Aires to Naples – with a dynamism and dominance that bound his teams together and shaped their legacies. But when Maradona aficionados think back to his glory days on the pitch, they think not of trophies alone, but of his trademark ball control and instinctive nature, both of which led to inexplicable goals and assists.

Maradona once articulated this relationship with the ball and his belief in the purity of the game: La pelota non se mancha. The ball never gets dirty.

Much like his legend: Some things will remain untouched.