Diego Maradona was born in Lanús, Argentina and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Maradona is a Catholic and God is, in more than one respect, a huge part of his football career. He once said:
God makes me play well. That is why I always make the sign of the cross when I walk out onto the field. I feel I would be betraying Him if I didn’t.
Perhaps Maradona’s most controversial and infamous quote in a long history of controversial quotes has to do with a goal he scored when Argentina was playing England in the 1986 World Cup. Inadvertently, Maradona scored a goal as the ball bounced off of his hand and the referees let it stand. Maradona said:
[I scored the goal] a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.
Beyond his own beliefs, Maradona brings new meaning to the term “cult leader.” He is so revered in his home country that fans have literally established the “Church of Maradona.” The religion comes complete with 10 commandments, rituals and, as of 2008, over 120,000 adherents. They even measure time in before and after the birth of Maradona.
Almost no one has done more for Argentinian pride than Maradona–as the religion based on him might attest.
But he’s an international figure as well–but not so much in a positive way necessarily. He’s, shall we say, an antagonistic figure. Of critics outside of Argentina, he famously said:
To those who did not believe: now suck my dick – I’m sorry ladies for my words – and keep on sucking it. I am either white or black. I will never be grey in my life. You treated me as you did. Now keep on sucking dicks. I am grateful to my players and to the Argentinean people. I thank no one but them. The rest, keep on sucking dicks.
And the prospect of former U.S. president George W. Bush visiting Argentina got Maradona a bit fired-up. He said:
I think Bush is a murderer. I’m going to head the march against him stepping foot on Argentine soil.
But that’s not all. Maradona said on television once that he hates everything about the United States and he has positioned himself alongside some of America’s sworn enemies in South America. He once declared:
I believe in Chávez, I am Chávista. Everything Fidel does, everything Chávez does, for me is the best.
And he sports tattoos of both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
More recently, Maradona has made friends with America’s current enemy du jour in Iran’s President Ahmadinejad and word is, he’s considering coaching the Iranian football team.
Maradona is certainly a controversial figure, and an influential one. How about that.