"The number 10"

"The number 10"

To start writing, or at least trying, what the greatest genius of football of all time means for me, a fanatic supporter of Boca and of Argentina, there is no need of statistics. Numbers, however, can only confirm an obvious reality: Diego was, is and will be unique and without equal. But here I do not want to prove that he was the greatest of all, this would have no sense. Diego does not need ambassadors or diplomats to leave his sign in the history of football. He gained this on his own, and every triumph was due to his effort, application, passion and, of course, pure talent.

Almost everybody knows these facts: that Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960 in Lanús, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. That his career in football clubs started with Argentinos Juniors (1976-80), Boca Juniors (1981 and 1995-97), Barcelona (1982-84), Napoli (1984-91), Sevilla (1992-93) and Newell's Old Boys (1993); that his debut was on Oct. 20, 1976 (Argentinos Jrs. vs. Talleres Cordoba 0-1); that his last match was on Oct. 25, 1997 (River Plate vs. Boca 1-2); that he played 588 official games of cups and leagues, scoring 312 goals (0.53 goals per match); that his first match with Argentina was on Feb. 27, 1977 (Argentina vs. Hungary 2-1) and his last match was on June 25, 1994 (Argentina vs. Nigeria 2-1), that he played 90 matches with the Argentine national team, scoring 34 goals (0.36 per match); he won 11 titles; won 1 World Cup for Youths in 1979, played 3 America Cups (1979-1987-1989, he never won this competition, but scored 4 goals in 11 matches), and played 4 World Cups (1982-1986-1990-1994, he won one and was runner-up in another, scored 8 goals in 21 matches).

So far, everything confirms the obvious thing, but I would like, honestly, to give a description that goes farther than every number and/or title; Diego is beyond this. I am almost 23 years old, I am a season ticket holder at Boca since 7 years, and it is long time that I go every Sunday (or when they play) to the glorious Bombonera stadium. And Boca, as Diego says, is more important than the players; the players go by, but the club and his fans always remain. But Diego does not say that the players who go by are the normal and the ordinary ones; Diego Armando Maradona does not. Diego does not go by. He is Boca and Boca is Diego.

Boca's last years were not very good about titles and victories. Fortunately, we became champions recently, after 6 years. But I, in all these years without winning a title, never repented of paying a ticket for the match: it is very simple, Boca does not depend on its results, because it has an infinite greatness. And much of this greatness is due to "the" Diego.

It becomes very difficult for me to describe what I was feeling when Diego came back to Boca... I arrived at the stadium long before the match, and I swear that the final result of the match was only an excuse, it did not matter. When Boca was coming out of the tunnel, the first of the players was "the" Diego (there are many Diegos, "the" Diego is only one). His way of walking, his jumps, his way to raise his arms to greet the fans... and when the match started, ah! This was real art. His unique way of caressing the ball with his left shoe, his movement in the field with the tongue out of his mouth, and always careful with his teammates, always doing something unpredictable.

He came back to Boca as a king. He did not have anything to prove. But without doubts, he was running towards the ball as a 20-years-old boy. He had the illusion of somebody playing in the yard of his house, bouncing a rubber ball against the wall...

And with the national team, well, there are even greater words. Seeing Diego entering the field with his strip of captain and the number 10 on his blue and white jersey, goes way beyond every possible description. Simply, it gave sense to football and to life. These are the best words to describe that.

I am resigned. I know that in my life I will see many great players. Many of them will be skillful and talentful. We will win some matches, some tournaments, and we will lose others. But it will never be the same. I always thank God for being born in Diego's years and for having seen and enjoyed almost all Diego's football career. But please, don't us think that there will be another one like him. Diego, at birth, wrote his name in history.

Mariano Delle Donne

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