The journalist, sports writer and TV host Gianni Minà has reprised his earlier writing and interviews to produce a wide-ranging, impassioned and profound portrait of Diego Armando Maradona, marked by linguistic flair and wit in his biography, Maradona: ‘Non sarò mai un uomo comune’ Il calcio al tempo di Diego (Maradona: ‘I will never be an ordinary man’ Soccer in the age of Diego). Published by Minimum Fax, it tells the story of Maradona and his human side, full of contradictions and weaknesses, expressed through his passion for soccer, his champion’s instinct and the drive that saw him lead Naples to its first league title in 1987. That was not only a sporting victory but also the redemption of an entire city.
Gianni Minà and Maradona had been friends since 1986, having met on the night of Argentina’s victory at the World Cup in Mexico. Minà stands by the champion, writing with lucidity and attention to detail, honesty and fairness. His book shows the complexity of the years when el pibe de oro played, and the frenzied pace to which soccer subjects its players in order to keep in motion a machine that, is not only a sport, but big business.
The narrative takes a stand against those members of the press who seek to sensationalize news and expose the private lives of players. In the foreground, then, is a Maradona who dribbles, is fouled, scores and wins on the pitch, but away from the stadium he struggles under the pressure of a world that, perhaps, is not as sporting as you might think. He himself says: “On the field with the ball between my feet I know who I am. Off the pitch I may not be able to dominate my life, I may be a victim of insecurities.”
Details of the Argentine champion’s life are known and admired, but Gianni Minà also shows other points of view. He succeeds in describing a wider and more complex background in which to insert the rise and fall of Maradona, who said: “I made a mistake and I paid for it, but the ball is not stained or has not been stained.” Maradona in his life managed to have an enduring relationship with soccer: his actions were poetic metaphors, movements of athletic perfection performed on the field of battle that have remained impressed in the hearts of young people, especially the poor, who are eager for human and social redemption. As the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga state: “When the game creates beauty, its value for culture is implicit.”