immersed in the making of a myth

A statue of Diego Maradona is unveiled in front of Argentina's Santiago del Estero stadium on June 4, just before the Argentina-Chile match for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.


Even before the death of « El Pibe de oro » (the « golden kid »), which occurred on November 25, 2020, everything has been said about the thousand and one facets of the diamond of Argentine football Diego Maradona. However, we can not resist this « great crossing » proposed by the eponymous program of France Culture. By painting the portrait of the one who « Turned mud into gold », the documentary maker Michel Pomarède, who warns from the start that he is « Not a big football fan », tells of the making of a true mystic.

It all started in a slum of Fiorito without water or electricity on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital. Son of a working-class family of seven brothers and sisters, the small (1.65 m) football virtuoso enjoyed success from the wasteland and then the status of idol at Boca Juniors, a popular club in Buenos Aires.

Read also: Argentinian « god » of the round ball, Diego Maradona is dead

Before reaching fame in Naples (1984-1991), « Capital of the south of the world », according to the writer Alicia Dujovne Ortiz, where he will be twice Italian champion and win a European Cup. And to climb on top of the world with the Argentina team, during the 1986 World Cup, against the invincible Germany in the final.

Revenge of the Vanquished

The story of Maradona transcends eras and generations, the documentary tells us, because it is that of the revenge of the vanquished against the victors: of Argentina against the British Empire, of the popular neighborhoods club of Boca Juniors against the bourgeois neighborhoods represented by River Plate, from the small town of Naples against the rich Northern Italy. “The Napoli Sunday match is like a way out of suffering. The moment to forget a week where one kills the other or the other kills one. The survival « , he declares in an interview transcribed by the daily The team in 2007.

The documentary attempts to unravel the secret of the strictly religious fascination that it exercised and still exercises, securing it in all families as a tutelary member. His creativity and the mischievous generosity with which he broke the established rules – not hesitating to talk about  » God’s hand  » when he scored a hand goal against England in 1986 – dazed onlookers with happiness. To the point of arousing nostalgia even among those who have not seen him play.

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Archives and testimonials from fans – writers, playwrights, academics – combine words of experts and those of the player, to pay tribute to his technical grace and his incredible vision of the game, without ignoring his dark side – cocaine, Mafia, tax fraud , illegitimate children, domestic violence… – which will end up consuming him. At the crossroads of literature, poetry and football, the series documents the cultural significance of an indelible heritage. Raising Maradona to the rank of « child of the ball », as the brilliant artists were once called.

Great Crossing: Diego Maradona, a child of the ball, documentary series by Michel Pomarède, directed by Jean-Philippe Navarre, (Fr., 2021, 5 × 57 min). Available on France Culture.

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