BOGOTA – Diego Maradona was just a boy in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown outside Buenos Aires, when he told Argentine television about his sporting dreams.
“There are two: to play on the national team and win the World Cup,” he says in the black-and-white footage.
The second of those dreams came true on June 29, 1986, when he achieved soccer immortality by leading the Albiceleste to their second World Cup title.
Twenty-nine days before the 21st edition of soccer’s premier event kicks off in Russia, we look back at a legendary No. 10 who grew up poor as the fourth of sixth children and got his start with a humble team known as Cebollitas.
Known for remarkable dribbling skills, passing and vision, he quickly reached the elite level of the sport, playing for Argentina’s Boca Juniors before moving to Europe to play for FC Barcelona and then have his greatest club success with Italian-league side Napoli,
Maradona, then 17, did not make head coach Cesar Luis Menotti’s roster for the 1978 World Cup, which was played in Argentina and was won by the Albiceleste, but the following year he led a team that demolished the competition at the U-20 World Cup in Japan.
He then made his senior World Cup debut in 1982 in Spain, where he was shut down in a key game against Italy by hard-nosed defender Claudio Gentile.
But he cemented his place in soccer history with his performance at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where he scored five goals and was named the tournament’s top player after leading his side to a 3-2 victory over West Germany in the final.
The victory that day in front of 114,600 people at Estadio Azteca marked a before and after for Maradona, who is often mentioned along with Brazilian great Pele as one of the two greatest soccer players of all time.