Considered one of the greatest footballers in history, Maradona passed away on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60, after years of battling drug and alcohol abuse.
Despite his death, Maradona remains a strong presence in the minds of Argentine fans. Scores still wear his jersey, chant about his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup and furiously debate whether comparisons to Lionel Messi are appropriate.
At the CONMEBOL Tree of Dreams in central Doha, an area where South American football is celebrated, FIFA President Gianni Infantino greeted former teammates of Maradona, who took turns describing his greatness on and off the pitch.
“We must not only pay tribute, but also celebrate Diego,” said Infantino. “I would like there to be a day in the future to celebrate Diego Armando Maradona at every World Cup.”
Richard Giusti, who played with Maradona in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, said it was impossible to compare him to Messi, who became the first Argentine to score in four different World Cups with his goal in the 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia .
“We can’t compare them. We can’t say if one is better than the other,” Giusti said. “They are different. They are both geniuses. And Argentinian. We have to enjoy it.”
Messi, possibly in his last World Cup at the age of 35, converted after a penalty in Saudi Arabia’s defeat. The Argentina captain described it as a huge blow and promised they would regroup for their Group C Saturday against Mexico.
Jorge Burruchaga, winner of the 1986 World Cup final, said Argentina had no room for error in their next matches.
“Hopefully Leo (Messi) will have the game everyone wants tomorrow,” he told Reuters. “And the tribute we pay to Diego today is the least we can do for a football genius, for someone who has touched so many people.”