Remember Maradona, Latin America’s patron saint for the step: Pics Show: NPR

Remember Maradona, Latin America's patron saint for the step: Pics Show: NPR

Diego Maradona celebrated Argentina’s World Cup victory at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City in 1986.

John Fink


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John Fink

Diego Maradona celebrated Argentina’s World Cup victory at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City in 1986.

John Fink

I got to know Diego Armando Maradona for the first time in September 1993, when I was watching the qualifying match between Argentina and Colombia for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Even though I was a little kid at the time, I knew Maradona, the Argentina superstar, was something special. His vision, the way he was bypassing his opponents – was respected and loved not only in his own country, but throughout Latin America and the world.

Maradona, who rose from the slums of Buenos Aires to lead the Argentine national team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, died Wednesday at the age of 60, according to media reports. He reportedly suffered a heart attack at his home in a suburb of Buenos Aires.

Upon learning of his death, I asked some of his NPR Latins to share their memories of Maradona. For us, in our region, we take football as seriously as religion – and as such, we all have to experience Maradona from our country in our own way.

Here is a selection of reviews from NPR employees. These have been edited for length and clarity.

Maradona in San Salvador, El Salvador, 2006.

Lisette Lemus


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Maradona in San Salvador, El Salvador, 2006.

Lisette Lemus

Maradona in his local football stadium, where he first played in Argentina, 1983.

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Maradona in his local football stadium, where he first played in Argentina, 1983.

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Maradona, 16, in Buenos Aires. He was born on October 30, 1960 in Villa Fiorito, one of the poorest suburbs of Buenos Aires.

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Maradona, 16, in Buenos Aires. He was born on October 30, 1960 in Villa Fiorito, one of the poorest suburbs of Buenos Aires.

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The scoreboard shows Maradona’s result in the 1981 match.

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The scoreboard shows Maradona’s result in the 1981 match.

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Pope Francis meets Maradona in Rome, 2014.

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Pope Francis meets Maradona in Rome, 2014.

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Santa Maradona

Since I was born in the US, my first intimate exposure to the passion about fútbol was through my friend, colleague, and former Latino host Jasmin Garsd. In fact, the first episode of Alt.Latino 10 years ago was a collection of songs about football from Latin America and from all over the world.

But the one that made her eyes sparkle with excitement and reflect more than a little nostalgia was “Santa Maradona” by Spanish rock pioneer Manu Negra. The recording includes the vocal excitement that she said she could hear every weekend while living near a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. Playing this frequently to remember Maradona is as good as watching his game on YouTube frequently. – Felix Contreras, co-founder and host Latino alternative

Black Hand – Santa Maradona

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Maradona, coach of Jimnasia and Isgerma La Plata, before a match in Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2019.

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Maradona, coach of Jimnasia and Isgerma La Plata, before a match in Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2019.

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Latin ambassador for the game

I love walking by Diego Maradona’s mural outside the Naples Pasta Bar in Washington, D.C. I always get vibes from it and love seeing a Latino displayed on a mural in the nation’s capital. He loved it in one of his recent years, working as a coach for the second-tier soccer team in Sinaloa, Mexico, and nearly led them to promotion. It shows that he was really interested in the sport and was a Latin ambassador for the game. – Gustavo Contreras, Co-Producer, All things considered

Maradona, midfielder, dribbles three English defenders during the World Cup quarter-final soccer match in Mexico City, 1986.

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Maradona, midfielder, dribbles three English defenders during the World Cup quarter-final soccer match in Mexico City, 1986.

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Candles are placed next to a picture of Maradona outside the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy.

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Candles are placed next to a picture of Maradona outside the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy.

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“When Argentina won … we all got in strong.”

As a Morinita Mexican-Colombian kid who grew up in surfing-centered Southern California, seeing Maradona beat West Germany in Mexico City was huge. I had never met my family from South America and I was always aware that I was different from the rest of my extended Mexican family, but when Argentina won, none of that mattered and we all participated strongly. This goal of the Hand of God against the British was something that every colonial nation dreamed of. – Nadia Grenier, Traffic Coordinator

Maradona beats England goalkeeper Peter Shelton to score his “Hand of God” goal as England’s defenders look at the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

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Maradona beats England goalkeeper Peter Shelton to score his “Hand of God” goal as England’s defenders look at the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

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Argentina shirt and black ribbon hang on the balcony after news of Maradona’s death in Buenos Aires.

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Argentina shirt and black ribbon hang on the balcony after news of Maradona’s death in Buenos Aires.

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Diego Maradona celebrates Argentina’s World Cup victory at Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, World Cup 1986.

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Diego Maradona celebrates Argentina’s World Cup victory at Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, World Cup 1986.

John Fink

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