Maradona a genius on the field, a character off

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Mexico City: On the soccer field, he was considered as a genius. Outside, he was a character known practically everywhere, by everybody.

Diego Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60, started his story as a player in the Villa Fiorito neighborhood in Buenos Aires and over the decades he became a soccer great.

He debuted with Argentinos Juniors and then jumped to the mythical Boca Juniors, where in 1981 he got his first title as a professional soccer player. Then, it was off to Europe, and his legend began.

He won three titles with the Barcelona club, becoming a world soccer figure. But Maradona won a place as one of the all-time greats when he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, where he scored one of the most storied goals in soccer history the "Hand of God" goal that helped defeat England in a quarterfinal match.

Pundits have debated about who was the best soccer player in history whether Maradona or Pel , the iconic Brazilian who retired in 1977 and is still alive. There has been no consensus.

Maradona and Pel had a very good relationship until the Argentine failed a doping test and was expelled from the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Pel criticized him and they parted ways until 2005, when they re-established a relationship.

Maradona retired in 1997, but he remained linked to soccer. He was Argentina's team coach.

Off the field, Maradona was an outspoken personality who leaned to leftist ideology. He was a good friend of Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution, and was also close to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Ch vez.


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