Sporting fans around the world have been grief-stricken over the unbelievable departure of Diego Maradona, regarded as the best footballer of all time alongside Brazil’s Pele.
Nepalese fans also mourn the untimely death of the iconic footballer Maradona, along with the football fans across the globe. The magical footballer commands a huge fan- following in the football-crazy Nepalese community.
A flood of memories related to my experience with watching the iconic footballer live on the TV rushed at me all at once.
Prior to 13th World Cup ’86, Nepalese people remotely knew that born in a poor family, Maradona made his professional debut at the age of 15 for Argentinos Juniors and his full international debut started aged 17.
On the eve of 1982 World Cup, he was sold for a world-record £5 million to Barcelona. This event made his name popular among Nepalese football fans.
Before 1986 most Nepalese were fans of Brazil as they had heard much about the Brazilian football legend Pele. I was no exception.
One source led to another and we came to know that like Pele there was a young jersey no. 10 Argentine football star who had been creating the compelling football saga around the world. By the time Pele had stopped playing professional football and all Nepalese had a God-sent opportunity to watch another global superstar play live on TV. All were extremely thankful to NTV.
They were overwhelmed to see the superhuman performance of Maradona in all seven matches he played and the greatest individual goal in the WC history.
Many knew that Argentina won the World Cup when it was held in Argentine soil in 1978. In 1986 Maradona’s exceptional leadership made the average team win the trophy in the world’s biggest sporting arena.
Maradona is the one footballer who has great influence and inspiration across the generations all over the world.
For the first time in Nepal, Football fans rallied around their favorite teams in an organised way. Mostly, flags of Italy, West Germany, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Argentina, etc. were seen dangling from their house mainly in down-town Kathmandu.
Jersey no.10 on the pale blue and white stripes, his big posters, the Argentine team along with other global high-profile players and teams were sold in the street-side shops. After the practice, we swarmed into one room long before the live matches on the TV.
The friends from other localities also would join the gathering nothing short of a small carnival. The whole locality would be echoed around with the noises supporting their favorite teams. In the morning, all the playgrounds would be filled with the players wearing the jerseys of their favorite teams mostly that of Brazil and Argentina.
The footballers from Division ‘D’ to ‘A’ also would involve in the serious discussion about the matches. Post the World Cup there emerged many new local football tournaments.