Any Socceroos fans who were around in the early 90s won’t have forgotten the World Cup 1994 qualifier match vs Argentina in a hurry: a then record 44,000 crowd cramming into Sydney Football Stadium to witness the world’s greatest player in action.
The match – which ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw – put the sport on the front and back pages of Australia’s newspapers, as well as drawing media attention from all over the world.
Twenty-five years later and the man at the centre of it all – Diego Armando Maradona – is still an object of fascination: the untouchable genius on the field, and the self-destructive tragic figure off it.
This third eponymous film from the team behind ‘Senna’ and ‘Amy’ throws the clearest ever spotlight onto the legend, drawing on 500 hours of never-before-seen footage from Diego’s personal archive, with the full support of the man himself.
It follows his rise from Argentinian slums to Italian top-flight club Napoli, who he led to their first ever league title after signing from Barcelona for a then world-record fee; and of course international glory in captaining his country to World Cup victory in 1986, after controversially knocking out England with his infamous ‘Hand of God’ foul goal.
There follows though his painful-to-watch demise through cocaine abuse, mafia collusion, sordid affairs, and his ultimate destruction at the hands of the Italian press and judicial system who had long tired of his behaviour.
Like the best mafia movies it dramatically illustrates the heavy price so often paid for god-like domination and untouchability, which Maradona truly attained during his glory years.
As the film focuses chiefly on that fateful Napoli tenure there is sadly no visual memento of the later Socceroos match, nor of much else beyond Diego’s departure in disgrace from the Italian club in 1992, save for a few flash-forwards to his more recent antics, not least at last year’s World Cup in Russia.
Either way this film is a compelling must-see for any true soccer fan of any nation, even if its title doesn’t exactly push the boat out for its subject.
‘Diego Maradona’ is released on June 14, distributed by Altitude Films. Director Asif Kapadia.