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Diego Maradona: 1961(?)—: Athlete

National Folk Hero

Argentines remained loyal to Maradona, however. He backed a lagging presidential candidate, Carlos Saúl Menem, in 1995, and Menem afterwards won by a landslide. Maradona the midfielder returned in the fall of that year when he rejoined his old team, Boca Juniors, but it would be his last season in professional soccer. He was suspended a third time, and returned in July of 1997 to the Boca team, but injuries forced the announcement of his official retirement. Characteristically, he claimed that he and family were under threat, and that powerful factions wanted him out of the sport.

In early 2000 Maradona was rushed to an emergency room in Uruguay after a suspected cocaine overdose. The incident was said to have weakened his already damaged heart. He left South America for Cuba to enter a treatment program there. (He sports tattoos of Cuban revolutionary hero Ché Guevara and long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro.) That same year, he shared the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Player of the Century award with Pelé. The Italian government claims that Maradona owes $25 million in back taxes, but he claims that the burden belongs to the Napoli team because of its fiscal mismanagement. The team offered him a management position in 2001, which he declined.

Maradona's "hand of God" goal—which he admitted on Italian television four years later was indeed his own fist—is still considered a defining national moment for Argentina. The broadcast of the moment is still replayed. The announcer screams "Gooooooool!" (goal) as is customary, but then amends it to "Diegooooooool!" before breaking into sobs. Maradona has been the subject of biographies and other books assessing his relation to the Argentine national character. When he was invited to play in a Buenos Aires exhibition match in his honor in November of 2001 and took a lap around the field with his two daughters, spectators in the stands cried.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalDiego Maradona: 1961(?)—: Athlete Biography - Child Soccer Star, The Infamous "hand Of God" Goal, National Folk Hero, "death Would Glorify Him"