As a kid growing up on the African continent, football is everything… For many it is almost a religion! Which kid has not felt or touched a football? Which one has not been in awe of a football game? My two best football players of all times are Pelé and Maradona. Now Maradona has changed dimensions. I loved Maradona because he was just pure genius, and he had insane dribbling skills. He entered the annals of history for his impressive talent and charisma, for the famous “La Mano de Dios” in 1986, and more importantly for his dribbling from the 60 m line past 5 players to score the goal which was voted “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.com voters in 2002. He possessed an amazing ability, dexterity, and passion for the game on the field. I have viewed countless footings of him as he raised the cup in 1986, just as I watched as he cried for the second place in 1990. Learning to play football meant that you had to watch the maestro, the great Maradona. I have loved every play of this man. The man was a pure genius, an explosion of talent, a force of nature… no wonder that he was nicknamed “El Pibe de Oro” (the golden boy) as a young boy. Maradona was truly a golden boy… He has inspired so many. We all loved to wear the number 10 of Maradona, but very few have been found worthy of it. Just the other day, I found a small statue effigy of Maradona on my colleague’s table… yes So long El Pibe, you have touched all our hearts forever.
Below I share the words of a few famous African players; I have added words by my other all-time player, Pelé, at the end. Cameroon played against Argentina in 1990 and defeated Maradona’s Albiceleste in the opening game, and then went on to be the first African team to advance all the way to the quaterfinals in FIFA World Cup history, so this is special.
Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast said, “RIP Diego Armando Maradona, my first ever football shirt, the man behind my love for football.”
Roger Milla, the great Cameroonian player, a contemporary of Maradona, said, “My great friend Diego Maradona … Rest In Peace LEGEND.”
“We have lost a legend and an icon,” former Liberia international and 1995 Ballon d’Or winner and now president of Liberia, George Weah tweeted. He added, “… His extraordinary story as a kid who unshackled himself from the yoke of poverty and used his mastery of football to bring joy, inspired millions. May his soul rest in perpetual peace.”
Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, who like Maradona starred for Barcelona, also reserved special praise for the football icon. “… Maradona will always be with us. He was the idol for a whole generation, and for future generations, for what he did in football. He was from another planet. Diego, you’re god, you’ll always be alive in our hearts,” the former Cameroon international said as quoted by AS.
The other legend, the Brazilian Pelé, had this to say, “… I’ve lost a great friend and the world has lost a legend. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky.“