Diego Maradona: a life in quarantine

This article has been published on the special issue 20 – 21 of Vanity Fair directed by Paolo Sorrentino, on newsstands until June 2.

We sixty days, he sixty years. If you look back, Diego realizes that he has always been a prisoner. There were too many doors to open and one key. As a boy he thought it was enough. He felt free. He was alone Diego and not yet Maradona . He knew how to play football. He moved his legs left and right. He kept the ball glued to his feet. The first had been given to him by his uncle Cirilo at the age of three.

They called him El Tapón, Cirilo, because he was a goalkeeper, he jumped between the posts like a cap and was not afraid of anything. At the end of the game he lifted his shirt and waved his bruises just like the girls Maradona chased in teenage magazines showed their boobs. Suddenly they came out of the newspapers and went to look for him. He was beautiful and never would have been, but people sang his name. He stamped his feet in unison “Maradò, Maradò” and it seemed that the earth was about to sink.

On those days, in the only prison where the hour of air did not weigh on him, he saw endless horizons where others only met walls. The field was the Pampas. He fell off his horse, took blows and got up. The grandstands of the stadium resembled the facades of luxurious buildings. His house was made of sheet metal and cardboard. Her father got up at dawn and came home that it was night. He went to the black river, the Riachuelo, and took his place in the factory. He ground the bones of the cows, raised dust and the stench of his clothes preceded him. Diego helped him. And he also helped grandmother Salvadora and mother Tota. Who loved Evita and occasionally prayed to her.

Tota had taught him to make the sacred sign and to Cornejo, the coach of the cebollitas, the youth team of Argentinos Juniors, Diego's first team, who had predicted a great future for his son, had answered only: “If God wills, it will happen.” Diego himself finished on the cross later. They said he was nailed by origins, talent and fate . All bullshit. If he spread his arms and gave up, it happened because his dreams were too big. He touched them, joined them and was afraid they would take them away a minute later. It devoured them like the caged animal tears its rations. Maradona has always had problems with the word moderation. Moral masters raised their fingers. The others judged him without knowing anything. “You have to control yourself, Diego,” said those who swore they loved him. But they, Villa Fiorito had never seen it. And of the cesspool with the drains of the shacks overflowing with shit and sewage from which he was miraculously pulled out two years by Uncle Cirilo, they had never even smelled.

Diego Armando Maradona has always been under pressure. Success, fame, expectations. At 15 years he maintained the family. A 20 advertised airlines, toothbrushes, school supplies and dolls. They made him feel like god, but he was the wireless puppet, the puppet. He received a lot, but the rest were stolen from him. Now that the world is in lockdown or as they say on Argentine TV at full volume it is in cierre de emergencia , now that the door of the house has the key but Diego is one of four billion and can no longer go out, at this moment when every step between the armchair and the refrigerator weighs on him, getting up is tiring and he no longer slips through the alleys to recover the foil of packs of cigarettes and reselling it as a child, Diego knows that if everything went up in smoke it wasn't just his fault. It would have served more pity and less indulgence. Where were the bad guys then? Where were the righteous? Where the severe? Diego has always been owned by someone else.

Chained by the fans, the homeland, the soldiers, the flag, the contracts, the trips, the dangerous friendships, the motherfuckers, his body. He could not walk on the street. He could not stop at a traffic light. He could not swim in the sea. Always surrounded. In battle. Microphones. The inventions. The lies. His and those of others. “Diego a photo.” “Diego an autograph.” “Diego a shirt.” They sold their children's diseases, stirred sentimental blackmail, made them feel guilty. In Tokyo they wanted strands of hair. In Barcelona who forgot injections injuries.

His life in Naples. But his life was gone. He lived in constant confinement. With the barbed wire of the white railing of an apartment in Posillipo, in a street named after a jurist, in a strip of land where for Diego the only law was to remain isolated. He at the window, the morning pilgrimage under the house and as the only escape route the door of a car, the noise of the engine, the journey from home to Soccavo, the training session. When he went out in the evening he got lost. It was not a happy bewilderment. The smiles weren't sincere. A lugubrious party air blew between the baths and dance floors. He was attacked by the princes, but who knows how long Ulysses was no longer. It was just a wrapper. An Easter egg without surprise. He devoted himself to vices with a certain grace. He had a son, almost by accident. He doubled up until he never met again. He wanted to breathe and didn't breathe. He wanted to escape, but his guards did not allow him. He wanted to be Diego and had become only Maradona. Fernando Signorini, his athletic trainer, a man from the wide court who besieged him, had a theory. He claimed that there was Diego and then Maradona existed, a character that Diego had been forced to invent to satisfy the exploitation of the broad spectrum.

Maradona had become a ghost, but he could not afford weaknesses. He was just a man. It was imperfect. And the weaknesses were his best friends. Fernando told him that with Diego he would go to the end of the world, but that with Maradona he would not even have a coffee. He replied that he understood, but that if it had not been for Maradona he would still have been in Villa Fiorito to desire Coca-Cola and biscuits like any lucky boy from Recoleta. It was both, Maradona, but Diego no longer recognized his double and it happened to him more and more often to speak in the third person. In short, in person, there was no longer even one. It was different from itself. Naples tolerated everything and pretended not to notice anything. He won, lost and then finished everything. The frescoes of the murals faded and the color of the sky also changed.

They even booed him at San Paolo. He felt hatred blowing on a summer night in Rome. It was the target. The public enemy. The mouse to be trapped. Between a streak of cocaine and that of an airplane he embarked again in the hold. In Buenos Aires he landed in a cell even worse than any he had previously attended.

He put his footprints, like a beast, on a police register. His eyes were open, but he suspected he was already dead. He tried to resurrect and on a very hot afternoon an American nurse accompanied him definitively off the scene. What happened next is called getting old. Diego felt lonely , but to be honest no more than he had been before. He is fat and now if he walks on a field he has the appearance of his first coaches. Arrigo Sacchi swore that playing against him was like playing against time.

It was like knowing that sooner or later he would score or score. Now DAM no longer scores and neither does it. F year as bad as certain sunbeams. You try to cross them, but they blind you. And he still wants to hope. To see. Knowing that tomorrow he will still be able to open his eyes. It has been a long time since he had the black mop, but after all he is always the son of two farmers from Esquina and he is probably proud of it. He has aged . They say that old people visit wisdom, but it is a lie, a bale, a lie too. At the limit they find themselves more careful. More predictable. The old people don't make coils or bets. They don't improve. They no longer become good. They do not change. They wait for tomorrow. And in prison, protected, they're not that bad.


Paolo Sorrentino directs the new issue of Vanity Fair, an operation halfway between cinema and publishing

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