Advertisement
News

Watch Maradona play a charity match in ‘a potato field’ for a sick child

Diego Maradona proved he had a big heart fitting for a giant of the game during one winter incident in 1980s Naples.

The sporting world is mourning the death of Diego Maradona, widely believed to be one of the greatest football players of all time.

The infamous Argentine was named the FIFA Player of the Century in 2000 for his mind-bending feats of skill and agility. But he was also no stranger to controversy.

As well as a reputation for dabbling in illicit substances, “The Golden Kid” was renowned and derided — in the UK at least — for a goal-scoring handball against England in the 1986 World Cup.

But one incident some 18 months earlier showed he had a big heart fitting for a giant of the game.

Maradona arrived at Napoli in the summer of 1984 for a world record fee, greeted by 75,000 fans at the Stadio San Paolo and hailed as a “saviour”.

A local newspaper was even reported to be so overjoyed it claimed the city had no “mayor, houses, schools, buses, employment and sanitation [but] none of this matters because we have Maradona.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Barely six months into the contract, he was approached by a reserve team player who had been contacted by a desperate father in the nearby town of Acerra. The man’s son was sick, Maradona was told, and without an operation in France he might die.

Would Maradona play a charity match and raise money to save a young fan’s life?

The 23-year-old superstar, who himself grew up poor in a Buenos Aires shantytown, would never turn down such a request.

Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino was less enthusiastic, according to Corriere Della Serra, an Italian national newspaper, unwilling to risk having his star player kicked about a suburban playing field by amateurs.

Undeterred, Maradona reportedly paid the release clause in the club’s insurance contract himself, remarking “fuck the Lloyds of London. This game has to be played for that child”.

The pitch, Corriere reported, was more like a “potato field”. Footage shows the world’s most expensive footballer warming up in a wintry car park, posing for photos with children who are more coat than kid.

He played as he always did, bamboozling defenders and entertaining 10,000 fans packed into the tiny stadium. The match reportedly raised 20 million lire (about £8,000) for the operation and travel costs to France.

He never got to do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke, as the saying goes, but Maradona did go out to a freezing, muddy “potato field” in Acerra to raise money for a desperately sick child and score some wonder goals in the process. How many world class players would do that now?

Watch the highlights below.

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
'Using less energy isn't an option': Disabled people set to be hit hardest when bills soar again
Energy bills

'Using less energy isn't an option': Disabled people set to be hit hardest when bills soar again

I do-nate: Couple use wedding to raise £1,500 for Big Issue
Big Issue

I do-nate: Couple use wedding to raise £1,500 for Big Issue

Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits
Energy crisis

Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits

'What a load of bull': Martin Lewis rubbishes claims government can't act on energy bills crisis
Energy bills

'What a load of bull': Martin Lewis rubbishes claims government can't act on energy bills crisis

Most Popular

Read All
All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
1.

All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
2.

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
3.

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
4.

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.