This week’s main report celebrates the birthdays of two of the World’s greatest ever players: Pele is 70 and Diego Maradona is 50. But which of the two can be regarded as the best? First up, Damon reports on Pele, which will then be followed by Damian’s profile of Maradona. After listening to the two reports you can vote on who you think was the greatest ever player below. To help you understand a little better there is a vocabulary list containing the words in bold at the foot of this post
Maradona Worksheet.pdf here
Each era has its heroes and stars. Today’s football world is dominated by players like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, who are role models to many young players, but I wonder how long their influence will last.
There is one player that has stood the test of time and is the greatest World Cup player of all time. Pelé appeared in four World Cups, 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970, scoring 12 goals – the third most by any player – and creating many more. It was his first and last tournaments in Sweden and Mexico respectively that cemented his reputation as a world great.
In 1958, Pelé was 17 and had been playing for Santos and Brazil for one year. No one could imagine what an impact the boy from Três Corações in the south of Brazil would have on the tournament, but by the time he had scored four goals, including a hatrick against France in the semis, on the way to reaching the final everyone knew he was special. In the final, he scored one of the goals of the century – a precise chest-down, a deliciously weighted lob over a defender, polished off with a clinical volley. Pelé scored another as Brazil overcame Sweden 5-2 He became and the youngest player to score a hatrick in a World Cup, and appear and score in a final.
In 1970, in Mexico, Pelé was back to his best as part of the 1970 Brazil team which included such players as Jairzinho, Rivelino, Gérson and Tostão. It was samba football at its pinnacle and Pelé was involved in many breathtaking goals and moves during the tournament, but perhaps the famous was an attack that resulted in what is often regarded as the perfect goal. In the final against Italy, Clodoaldo dribbled past four Italians, played the ball to Rivelino who struck a long pass down the left to Jairzinho. From Jairzinho, Pelé received the ball just outside the box in the middle of the field before waiting for the perfect moment to stroke the ball right into the path of Carlos Alberto, who smashed it into the net.
Goal scorer and goal maker, Pelé’s close control and timing have not been surpassed. His obvious love for the game has seen him become a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and a recognised face beyond the football world. Perhaps this quote by Italian defender Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the 1970 World Cup final illustrates what a great player Pelé was, “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong.”
That was Diego Maradona scoring the greatest ever World Cup goal in a quarter-final match against England in 1986. The Argentinian commentator, Victor Hugo Morales, is in tears with joy and gratitude and is simply in awe at the beauty, the power and the skill of the goal. What planet has brought you here? Thank you Diego, thank you football.
Maradona went on to score two more superb goals in the semi-final against Belgium and then played the match-winning pass in the World Cup final against Germany to help his team, Argentina, lift the trophy. Though this team had great players it was clear that they were carried to the title by the skill, the courage, the pride, the technique and the determination of their leader Maradona, He almost did it again in 1990 with a weaker team and, hampered himself by injuries, Maradona took his team to the final before losing to a controversial penalty against Germany. He was quite simply the best player in the world.
However, if these World Cups were the peak of his career, then the World Cup of 1994 was probably the low point in his football life. He was banned from the tournament for taking illegal drugs, the second time in his career that this had happened, and he returned home in disgrace never playing for the national team again. Throughout his career, Diego has been no stranger to controversy facing problems with the law over drugs, weapon use, paternity suits and non-payment of taxes. And then there was this.
The so-called ‘Hand of God’ goal, which came in the same quarter-final match against England making him a hated figure in the country for a long, long time.
So how good was Maradona? He played 91 times for his country scoring 34 goals and played in 21 consecutive matches in 4 World Cups. Apart from the World Cup win of 1986, he also captained the youth team to the World title in 1979. He won league titles in Argentina with his beloved Boca Juniors in 1981 and with Italian side Napoli in 1987 and 1990 where he was, still is, adored by the local fans. He also won the Spanish Cup with Barcelona in 1983, the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989 and so many player-of-the-year awards that I do not have time to list them all!
But there is much more to it than these statistics. His football technique was never in doubt from the moment he made his debut as a 16 year old for Argentinos Juniors but it was also his quality as a leader, his pride at representing his country, his intense passion for the game, the style with which he played it and the fact that he made people fall in love with the game has meant that I would always vote for him ahead of players such as Pele, Best, Puskas and Di Stefano. The best player of all time? Without a doubt, Diego Armando Maradona.
Maradona Worksheet.pdf here
to dominate: to overpower others, to be the most important, to reign
role model: someone who young people want to copy / emulate
to stand the test of time: endure, remain unchanged for a long time, be permanent, last a long time
to cement (your) reputation: to make your reputation even stronger, make people think you are even better
impact: effect, impression
deliciously: delightfully, do something in a way that makes people admire it – Here, the lob was so good people were amazed
clinical: accurate, allowing for no error
pinnacle: the very top
to stroke the ball: pass the ball accurately and smoothly
to surpass: to get ahead of, to beat, to do better
consecutive appearances: A run of games without a break, e.g. 21 games in a row
ganged up on him: The other teams bullied him, they targeted him
side was eliminated: To be knocked out, sent home
peak of his career: At the top of his game, he was playing better than ever
‘Hand of God’: Infamous goal against England that he scored with his hand – Maradona called it ‘Mano de Dios’
knock-out rounds: If you win you progress to the next round and if you lose, you go home.
hampered by injuries: To be held back (be slower) due to injuries
banned from the competition: To be told to leave, to be kicked out of the tournament
in disgrace: To have no honour
representing his country: To play for his country