“Soy Maradona contra Inglaterra anotándote dos goles.”
An icon. A hero. The greatest fútbol player of all time. I can’t believe he’s gone. In Latinoamérica (2011), René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente, creates a beautiful world of imagery and symbols for Latin American resistance. He takes on the first person, becomes a poetic subject who embodies a plethora of symbols that represent this Latin American resistance, historically. It is a song of resilience. There is no reference to any particular country. Rather, there is a feeling of solidarity – that anyone from Latin America could be the poetic first-person subject in this lyrical masterpiece, a feeling of “La Madre Patria,” “Latinomérica Unida.” (2) He makes references to horrific crimes against humanity committed during right-wing repressive coups and military dictatorships, with very few specific names or qualifiers. These things are symbolic, metaphorical, and resonate with almost any Latin American who knows their history. Among some very profound verses, Residente mentions Diego Maradona by name. “Soy Maradona contra Inglaterra anotándote dos goles.” In this song full of snapshots of things that represent Latin American resistance, where names of countries and specifics are purposely left out, to be replaced with symbols that represent Latin American unity, we have this reference to a very specific moment of fútbol history. The reference is obviously to the two goals Maradona scored on England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup Final, the first of which is possibly the most controversial of all time: the one known as the “Hand of God” and the one that has been called by FIFA, the “Goal of the Century.” However, what these goals represent, especially in this song, was a slap in the face from the colonized to the colonizer. It became the perfect metaphor, an anti-imperialist clapback. In this song, these goals aren’t literal, they are symbolic, metaphorical. Diego Maradona represents the people of Latin America who fought back against imperialism with everything they had and continue to do so to this day. The inclusion of this specific reference was not accidental, it was deliberate. Diego Maradona IS Latin American resistance.
In the Southern Cone, it is a common saying that “The English invented fútbol, and we perfected it.” There are those who say fútbol is not and should not be political. Those people have not a clue about what fútbol truly is and means historically worldwide. South America brought us jogo bonito, brought us the first World Cup, and collectively Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil have won 9 of the 21 World Cups that have ever been played. The English may have invented fútbol, but South America definitely perfected it. Maradona brought a style of play that was never before seen. He put Argentina and Latin America on the map globally. In my house, he truly has always been D10S. But I am not here to talk about his on the pitch brilliance, that is not up for debate, he is the Greatest of All Time. We will see thousands of tributes from teams and people all over the world that will highlight this.
There is way more to the way the myth, the legend, D10S was born. Rarely does this happen in life while the icon is alive, and one of the comforting factors is that he did receive a LOT of praise and recognition from institutions and people he held dearly during his life. His case is pretty unique. While flawed, he was a hero and an icon when it comes to resistance to fascism and capitalism. He was openly anti-imperialism and joined causes for justice all over the world, including working to undo some of the capitalist brainwashing that makes certain leaders of Latin America, all of whom refused to allow the United States to bully and exploit them, out to be villains. He was actively critical of the US and FIFA, as we should all be, especially those of us whose morals and values are social justice and equality. This of course got him targeted and harassed by the fascists in both entities, and the propaganda machine is strong. Part of the “controversy” he is surrounded by is precisely because of this capitalist, fascist propaganda. And he did not back peddle on his beliefs, ever. It is very easy to play the “good people on both sides,” “I don’t want to get involved” “I am apolitical” card for fame, clout, or due to cowardice. He never backed down from controversy. Deep down, he wanted to get “canceled” and live a quiet life away from the fame and infamy that he so hated.
He never asked for fame. He was discriminated against in Italy for being a brown, indigenous descendant, and from South America, while playing for Napoli, a team that was traditionally discriminated against within Serie A and Italian society already. The way he coped with being suddenly thrust into the worldwide spotlight at a time where the cult of celebrity wasn’t as recognized as toxic, wasn’t great. There is space to recognize his flaws and celebrate the impact he had on the world in so many ways. Humans are flawed. Your fav is probably problematic, and we don’t talk about this enough. None of this erases the mark he left on this world.
I was born into fútbol. Fútbol is in my blood. This feels like losing a family member. When I was little, I used to say I was gonna have four kids. Two boys, two girls. And I was gonna name them Diego, Armando, Mara, and Dona. When I heard the news this morning I felt numb. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat down to write. This is what came out. I will be mourning this death for a long time, and I will be taking the lessons he taught us with me for life. Gracias por tanto, Diego.