There’s more to being the best than kicking a ball

Latest posts by Edward Case (see all)

Diego Maradona, who has died aged 60, was without question one of the most naturally skilled footballers ever to play the beautiful game.

With a build that more closely resembled the ball than someone paid to kick one, his low centre of gravity coupled with incredible ball control helped the stocky midfielder to climb out of a childhood of abject poverty to become a figure loved with an almost messianic fervour in his home country Argentina and in Napoli, Italy, where he spent seven glorious years.

But with the tributes and superlatives piling up claiming he was the greatest of all footballers I asked myself one simple question this week: “Does he belong in the same company as Pele?”

And the immediate answer was no – not because of his cocaine addiction or the failed drug test for ephedrine which saw him sent home from the 1994 World Cup after only two games – but because he was something that would have been utterly inconceivable of Pele – a cheat!

There’s a fallacy put about by lazy social commentators that we prefer our heroes to be flawed characters, as if the trade off makes their ancient god-like status more acceptable to us mere mortals.

It’s something I have never agreed with.

Think about it – would the legacy of George Best, Jimmy Greaves or Gazza have been lessened somehow if they had not become alcoholics?

Is the stature of two of the world’s greatest songwriters in any way enhanced by the fact that the composer of Good Only Knows and Good Vibrations is a schizophrenic who spent much of the 1970s in bed and had a sandpit installed in his living room with a grand piano in the middle, or that the writer of Strawberry Fields Forever and In My Life could be a bit of a git and spent most of 1969 addicted to heroin?

Of course not.

Maradona was blessed with a prodigious talent, but unfortunately that came with a cynicism which affected how he played the game. The ‘Hand of God’ episode against England in 1986 is only a small part of that.

The weight of a whole nation’s expectations can rest very heavily on a sportsman’s shoulders, but there’s a big difference between being competitive and needing to win at all costs.

Diego Maradona fell on the wrong side of that line.

It’s all gravy

The reaction to Sainbury’s Christmas ad featuring a black family has sickened me to my stomach and once again I am left asking myself how I can be the same species as the twisted saddos who are getting possessive about gravy.

Regular readers will know that I rarely remember TV ads for what they are actually advertising. I’m far more likely to register a squirrel dry humping an aerosol can than I am the Lynx body spray he’s trying to sell me, so until this ridiculous fuss kicked off it hadn’t even occurred to me that the actors were all black. And why should it?

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On the subject of Sainsbury’s, they really need to change the name of their crushed ice to crushed ice allowed to melt then refrozen into one solid block. Now that’s what I call a real issue!

A small matter

This week, the BBC banned a nine-year old Jack Whitehall routine introduced to his live shows in 2011 about a dwarf at a music festival and censured the comedian after just two complaints following a repeat of a 2015 Live At The Apollo programme.

At the same time, a joke about bombing Glastonbury to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn supporters on Have I Got News For You was cleared by the corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

Even if you are of the opinion that comedy needs to be censored – which I don’t – how is blowing people up more acceptable than having to lift a little guy up at a urinal so he can pee?

For goodness sake BBC, grow a pair!

Edward Case

Columnist